Diving: Daley rules world after shock gold

Fifteen-year-old Briton snatches surprise victory in final round of 10m platform

Tom Daley became Great Britain's first individual world diving champion when he dramatically claimed the 10m platform title at the World Championships last night in Rome, beating the Olympic gold and silver medallists in the process.

The 15-year-old was third entering the final round and while he scored four 10s on his last dive, his rivals faltered.

Daley's score of 539.85 points saw him overhaul the Chinese world junior champion Qiu Bo and Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham to claim the title.

Qiu finished in second, 7.4 points adrift, with Zhou Luxin in third as fewer than 10 points separated the top three, while Mitcham had to be content with fourth after being in the top two for the majority of the competition.

Daley was almost speechless afterwards. "I don't know what to say. I don't believe it, I just don't believe it. It's amazing," he said. "Today was never the day when I thought I would become world champion. I woke up and thought, 'Just go out and enjoy it'. To come away with a gold medal was unthinkable. It still hasn't sunk in. It makes all the sacrifices worthwhile. Now I want to do it again in 2012 [at the London Olympics]."

Daley's dives have a lower tariff – degree of difficulty – than his rivals, which meant he was relying on them to make mistakes even if he dived perfectly. Ending the opening round in first place, he then dropped to fourth for the next three rounds as his lower degree of difficulty counted against him, with Zhou pulling away in third.

At that point Qiu was engaged in a private duel with Mitcham for first. However, Zhou had a poor entry on his penultimate dive to offer hope to the Briton. Daley took full advantage with a three-and-a-half back somersault which received four 10s and took him into bronze position, with second-placed Mitcham in his sights with one round remaining.

Then came the drama of the final round with Daley excelling with his reverse three-and-a-half somersault tuck to earn another four perfect marks from the judges. "I was going to come fourth and I would have been really happy with that because it's great," Daley added. "But then to come away with a medal was great and then a gold medal was just insane."

Of the final two rounds that brought him eight 10s, Daley added: "Those two are my favourite dives and that is why I leave them until last because I know under pressure I can do them well."

Teen sensation Daley's rapid rise

* Tom Daley, who was born in Plymouth in 1994, last year became an Olympian at the age of 14 years and 81 days, Britain's youngest since Rome 1960 when another schoolboy Ken Lester, aged 13, took part in the rowing as a cox.

* He had been competing seriously since the age of 10, winning the National Junior title – for under 18s. He received special dispensation to compete in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in January 2007 – he was two years younger than the minimum age – where he won a silver. In December he won the BBC's Young Sports Personality of the Year.

* A national and European champion, he arrived in Beijing in a blaze of publicity but fell out with his partner Blake Aldridge and finished 8th in the 10m synchro and 7th in the solo event.

* He is now 2/1 to win gold in 2012