PERTH, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 3 -- Xu Yanmei, 19, and Fu Mingxia, 12, were first and second respectively, after today's preliminaries in women's platform diving, making China the favorite to win the first gold medal of the World Swimming Championships.

Wendy Williams of the United States was third, pulling herself up from near the bottom with a series of solid dives. The other U.S. hope, Cokey Smith, also made the final 12, placing eighth.

Fu, who is 4 feet 10 1/4 inches and weighs 90 pounds, led after the first four dives with a string of 8's, the best scores of the morning session. But Xu topped her and everyone else when action resumed later.

The Olympic gold-medalist took second on her first dive of the afternoon as Fu stumbled, then moved into first place in the next round.

Williams, 20th of the 25 competitors after her second dive, finished strong with an inward 2 1/2 somersault from the pike position to edge Kim Chun Ok of North Korea for third.

"I'm happy with my performance. I'm just going home to ice everything so I'm not too stiff tomorrow," said Williams, who read a book on positive thinking at poolside between dives. "And what I'm going to focus on for the final is exciting the crowd and the judges."

In the men's one-meter springboard preliminaries, Edwin Jongejans of the Netherlands was first after the five morning dives with 216.06 points, while Chinese divers were second and third -- Wang Yijie with 211.89 and Tan Liangde with 210.12. The U.S.'s top diver, Mark Bradshaw, was fourth at 207.60, with teammate Mark Lenzi seventh at 204.99.

The American synchronized swimming effort started strong, with Kristen Babb second to Canada's Sylvie Frechette in the solo preliminaries.

American sisters Sarah and Karen Josephson took the lead after the preliminaries in duet synchronized swimming.