2016 Olympians Michael Hixon (Amherst, Mass./Bloomington, Ind.) and Steele Johnson (Carmel, Ind./West Lafayette, Ind.) have advanced to the men’s 1-meter final after placing fifth and 12th respectively in Friday’s preliminaries at the FINA World Championships. Their final is set for Sunday.

Also on Friday, Maria Coburn (Round Rock, Texas) finished 22nd and Alison Gibson(Austin, Texas) was 25th in the women’s 1-meter preliminary.

Hixon, who won the men’s 1-meter bronze at the 2015 World Championships, scored 384.80 points for fifth in the preliminaries. Johnson was competing on springboard for the first time at a world meet and scored 360.15 points for the last qualifying spot into the final. China’s Peng Jianfeng and He Chao secured the top two spots with 435.15 and 431.35 points.

Hixon opened the preliminary contest with just 43.50 points on his back 2 ½ tuck to sit in 49th place after round one. He came back by scoring no lower than 63 on each of his remaining five dives. He received 72 points on his second-round reverse 1 ½ with 2 ½ twists and by round four, he had climbed into the top 10. He closed out his list with 73.10 points on a difficult inward 2 ½ pike to move him up to fifth place.

“One dive at a time. With any prelim, you know it’s going to be a long one. I’m very strategic with the way I order my list. 205 (back 2 ½) is most people’s worst dive, so I was able to battle back and get in a good position. I’m really excited for finals, and I’m happy Steele’s there too,” Hixon said.

Like Hixon, Johnson climbed his way into the top 12. After two rounds, Johnson was in 37th place but scored more than 60 points on his last four dives to narrowly earn a spot in the final. In 11th place with one round to go, Johnson finished off his list with 62.40 points on a front 2 ½ with a twist, just enough to hold off Russia’s Nikita Shleikher by a tenth of a point for the last spot into the final.

“Honestly I had no expectations going into it because 1-meter is an event where anything can happen. I was going it with the same mindset as I do with all the collegiate meets – just get good hurdles and be confident. I did struggle a bit with some of the dives, but I feel like I had good hurdles and good confidence. When I go into the finals in a couple days, I’ll get to lead the crowd and set some pressure hopefully. My goal was to dive well and get into the final, and I did that, so I’m happy,” Johnson said. Coburn scored 239.80 points for 22nd in the 1-meter preliminary, and Gibson rallied back from a poor first dive to finish 25th with 236.40 points. It was the first world championships for both divers.

In 42nd place after her first dive earned just 34.50 points, Gibson came back with four solid dives that scored between 48 and 54 points to climb into 25th place, 10 points out of 12thplace and a spot in the finals.

“It was a little frustrating because I missed my back 1 ½ pike and I know how well I can do it. Other than that, all of my other dives were really solid, so I was really happy in the end with how I did,” Gibson said. “I was just really sad and frustrated about that first dive.”

Coburn, the 2016 junior world champion on 1-meter, was in 16th with one dive to go but came through with her lowest scoring dive of the day in the final round, finishing with 41.10 points on her back 1 ½ pike.

Prior to Sunday’s 1-meter final, Hixon will compete with Sam Dorman (Tempe, Ariz./Miami, Fla.) in Saturday’s men’s synchronized 3-meter contest. Also on Saturday’s schedule is Andrew Capobianco (Holly Springs, N.C.) and Tarrin Gilliland (Midland, Texas) in the mixed synchronized 10-meter event. Diving events at the FINA World Championships continue through July 22.

Courtesy of Jennifer Lowery | USA Diving