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High diving makes splash in Barcelona

Ukraine’s Anatoli Shabotenko competes during the first round of the men's high dive competition in Barcelona, Spain. (Associated Press)
Ukraine’s Anatoli Shabotenko competes during the first round of the men's high dive competition in Barcelona, Spain. (Associated Press)

Swimming: High diving has taken the plunge into the sports mainstream.

Thousands of people turned out Monday to watch 14 competitors descend from the height of a nine-story building into Barcelona’s (Spain) harbor in the first two rounds of the inaugural men’s high diving final at the swimming world championships.

Cliff diving great Orlando Duque totaled the day’s best score of 217.10 points after a pair of tumbling plummets from 88 1/2 feet that ended with a loud splash as he jackknifed into the green water.

After a moment of suspense, the 38-year-old Colombian bobbed to the surface, flashed a smile and gestured OK with both hands to ignite the cheers of the crowd amassed along the shore and fleet of sailboats.

“Winning a medal would be awesome, but winning the first one … you would always be remembered,” Duque said. “It would be quite an honor.”

The final continues Wednesday with three more rounds of dives off the temporary scaffold platform erected in Barcelona’s old harbor, near where the famous “Las Ramblas” street meets the Mediterranean Sea.

Artem Silchenko of Russia is second with 215.95 points, followed by Jonathan Paredes of Mexico with 213.30. Three-time defending Red Bull series champion Gary Hunt was fourth with 213.

The women will dive from a platform of 20 meters in Tuesday’s one-day final.

The world swimming federation approved high diving as a full medal event only five months ago, hoping to tap into the success of the established Red Bull series that can draw thousands of spectators.

And judging from the amount of people who ignored Barcelona’s multiple attractions to watch the show, it was mission accomplished.

Sprenger breaks Aussies’ gold drought: Christian Sprenger has given the Australians their first gold medal of the world swimming championships in Barcelona, Spain, with a victory in the 100-meter breaststroke.

World-record holder Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa led at the turn, under the pace he set at last summer’s London Olympics. But Sprenger rallied on the return lap, touching in 58.79 seconds for the gold. Van der Burgh was second in 58.97, while Brazil’s Felipe Lima took the bronze in 59.65.

American Kevin Cordes finished seventh, while teammate Nicholas Fink was last in the eight-man final.

Wiebe beats Langer on fifth playoff hole

Golf: Mark Wiebe of the U.S. beat Bernhard Langer on the fifth playoff hole in Southport, England, to win his first Senior British Open title.

Langer bogeyed his fifth attempt at the 18th hole on Royal Birkdale while Wiebe made par to claim the trophy. Storms delayed Sunday’s fourth round and play was halted after two playoff holes due to darkness.

Langer had an immediate chance to secure his second Senior British Open victory when play resumed at 8 a.m. but missed a 12-foot birdie putt.

Two holes later, Wiebe made a superb approach shot to set up a two-putt for par, while Langer failed to get up-and-down.

It was the first time in the 27-year history of the Senior British Open that the tournament ended on Monday.

Ecuadorian star Benitez dies in Qatar

Soccer: Christian Benitez, a soccer star from Ecuador who led the Mexican league in scoring last season, died a day after playing in a game for his club in Qatar. He was 27.

The Qatari club El Jaish provided no details about the death but said Benitez did not complain about his health Sunday. The team is awaiting a medical report.

El Jaish played Qatar Sports in the Sheik Jassim Cup, a warmup tournament for the upcoming season. The club said this was Benitez’s first game with his new team.

The game was played in hot and humid conditions typical of the Persian Gulf this time of year. Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup and the searing heat has prompted many in soccer to call for the tournament to be moved to winter.

Ohio State reaches deal with retired Gee

Miscellany: Former Ohio State University president Gordon Gee, who retired after remarks jabbing Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools, will receive a $5.8 million package over the next five years, along with an office, a secretary and a premium parking pass, the university announced.

The contract with Gee includes a one-time payment of $1.5 million, an annual salary of $410,000 and a $300,000 annual grant for research on 21st-century education policy. It also retains him as a full professor in the university’s College of Law.

Gee, 69, retired July 1, shortly after The Associated Press first reported remarks he made to the university’s Athletic Council in December.

Gee, who was Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997 and from 2007 until he retired, declined an AP request for additional comment.

N.C. State basketball adds Whittenburg: Former North Carolina State guard Dereck Whittenburg is back on the Wolfpack’s coaching staff.

Coach Mark Gottfried said that Whittenburg would be the senior assistant to the head coach and director of player development.

Whittenburg is most famous for launching the airball that the late Lorenzo Charles dunked just before the buzzer to give the Wolfpack a win over Houston in the 1983 national championship game.

He was a graduate assistant at N.C. State in 1985-86 and was an assistant coach for the Wolfpack from 1988-91. He spent a combined 10 seasons as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham, and led Wagner to the 2003 NCAA tournament.