BUDAPEST, Hungary - Purdue's Steele Johnson climbed the leaderboard over the final four rounds to finish seventh on 1-meter in his first career individual final at the FINA World Championships.
Johnson, who earned the last spot into the final after placing 12th in the preliminaries, moved into the top 10 after his fourth dive of the final, but by then a slow start had taken him out of medal contention. He opened with a back 2 ½ tuck that earned 57 points but followed up just 47.5 points on his second dive, a reverse 2 ½ tuck, to sit in 12th place after two rounds. From then, he scored no lower than 67.5 points on any of his remaining dives as he climbed in the standings after each round. His list score of 392.5 was 30 points better than his total in Friday's prelims.
"Today was a good day. I moved up from 12th place to seventh, which is a big jump. I did mess up my second dive; the hurdle was off and I came out early, but we were able to come back right after that with four other pretty good dives that I was happy with," Johnson said. "It was my first springboard final and my first individual final at Worlds, so I had a lot of fun. It was fun watching the other competitors, but now it's time to regear and get ready for platform synchro (on Monday)."
The 1-meter competition was the first of Johnson's three events at the World Championships. He'll compete again Monday with fellow Boilermaker Brandon Loschiavo in synchronized 10-meter, the event in which Johnson won silver (with David Boudia) at the 2016 Olympic Games. The prelims are set for 7 a.m. ET and the final at 12:30 p.m.
Also on Sunday for Team USA, Michael Hixon finished fifth on 1-meter. Jessica Parratto and Tarrin Gilliland finished sixth in women's synchronized 10-meter.
Hixon was in the hunt for another podium finish after winning bronze on 1-meter at the 2015 World Championships. He ended up fifth with 439.15 points, just 5.1 points from bronze medalist Giovanni Tocci of Italy (444.25). China went 1-2, with Peng Jianfeng leading the field at 448.40 and teammate He Chao 1.2 points behind him.
Hixon was consistent throughout the final and never dropped lower than sixth in the standings. He scored between 67.50 and 75 points on each of his first five dives. Heading into the sixth and final round, he was in fifth place and 6.6 points out of third. He came through with 83.30 points on his most difficult dive, an inward 2 ½ pike, but it wasn't quite enough to surpass Tocci and Germany's Patrick Hausding.
Parratto, a 2016 Olympian, competed internationally for just the second time with the 14-year-old Gilliland, and the new pairing scored 306.96 for sixth place. China's Ren Qian and Si Yajie won the gold with 352.56 points, followed by North Korea's Kim Mi Rae and Kim Kuk Hyang at 336.48 and Malaysia's Pandelela Pamg and Jun Hoong Heong at 328.74.
"We just started diving together at the beginning of this year so it hasn't been too long, but it already feels like we've been diving together for years, so it's just very exciting looking ahead to the future. I can see a lot of success," said Parratto, who finished seventh at the Rio Olympic Games with former partner Amy Cozad.
Parratto and Gilliland improved their performance from the morning preliminaries by 13.26 points. They were ninth with 96.40 points after two rounds of voluntary dives in the finals and then turned in three solid dives in the last three rounds. They scored 72.96 on their inward 3 ½ tuck, a dive Gilliland struggled with in Saturday's mixed synchronized 10-meter contest. They added 70.20 points on a front 3 ½ pike and finished out the day with 67.20 points on their back 2 ½ with 1 ½ twists.
Gilliland said she benefited from having the veteran Parratto by her side and felt more prepared than she did in the mixed synchronized 10-meter contest Saturday.
"It was a lot of fun. Jessica knows what to do, and she told me to just relax. I felt more ready (today)," said Gilliland, who is competing in her first World Championships.
Women's 3-meter synchro, featuring USA's Maria Coburn and Alison Gibson, will also be contested on Monday. Indoor diving events at the World Championships continue through July 22.
- Story by Jen Lowery, USA Diving
PURDUE'S REMAINING SCHEDULE AT 2017 FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
All times converted to Eastern (Budapest is 6 hours ahead of ET)
Thursday, July 20 at 12:30 p.m. -- 3-Meter Final