Diving: Daley plunges to sixth as partner's illness takes its toll

Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield finished a distant sixth in the final of the 10-metre synchronised event on the first weekend of the World Championships in Shanghai. The pair's preparations were badly disrupted by an illness to Waterfield and it showed as the competition wore on and they slipped down the leader board. The event was won by the Chinese pair of Qui Bo and Huo Liang, who will be strong favourites to repeat their success at next year's Olympics.

The Shanghai event is seen as a stepping stone towards London, especially with Daley and Waterfield's partnership still in its infancy. "This was a tough week," said Daley. "The London Olympics are going to be incredible and this competition is very valuable to us. There are still a couple of things we need to work on. I thought our performance went OK, considering the situation."

Waterfield, who won a silver in this event at the Athens Olympics and is 13 years Daley's senior, had not been able to train for four days after arriving from Team GB's training camp in Xian with what has been described as "flu-like symptoms". The pair only teamed up in January, but Huo and Qui have been together for just two months – this was their first competition – and their comfortable victory, the second of the weekend for the host nation, shows how much ground the rest have to make up.

Daley and Waterfield qualified in fifth but they failed to improve on most of their preliminary dives in the final, although it was noticeable how the later dives took their toll on Waterfield, who had only returned to the pool on Saturday. "When you miss a week's worth of training you can definitely tell," said Waterfield. "I was feeling a little bit flat. The main thing is that when I haven't trained for a week my confidence isn't quite there."

It was Huo's third successive title and he is also the defending Olympic champion. The Chinese duo finished 37 points ahead of Germany's Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein. Daley and Waterfield were 28 points short of the Ukrainians in third.

Daley will defend his individual 10m title this weekend. The next British action comes tomorrow when Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten compete in the 10km open water event. They have medal prospects, but the priority is a top 10 finish to ensure qualification for London.