British pair in sync for silver

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The Independent Online

After being edged out of an Olympic bronze medal four years ago, Peter Waterfield and Leon Taylor vowed never to suffer the same disappointment again. "We made a pact," Taylor said. "No more fourth."

After being edged out of an Olympic bronze medal four years ago, Peter Waterfield and Leon Taylor vowed never to suffer the same disappointment again. "We made a pact," Taylor said. "No more fourth."

Last night the British divers were true to their word as they won a silver medal here, Britain's first of the 2004 Games, in the men's 10m synchronised diving.

In front of a vociferous crowd and a sizeable British contingent, including Simon Clegg, the chef de mission of the British team, Waterfield and Taylor made a spirited recovery after a poor start to take second place behind the brilliant Chinese pair, Tian Liang and Yang Jinghui

It was Britain's first diving medal for 44 years. Indeed, apart from Eileen Armstrong's silver in 1920, Britain had won just four bronze diving medals before last night, the last of them by Brian Phelps and Elizabeth Ferris in 1960.

Taylor, 26, and Waterfield, 23, won the Commonwealth Games title two years ago. They also finished first and second in the individual event in Manchester, but until last night Taylor probably earned more fame from his role as a diver in Hollyoaks.

Taylor played the part in the soap opera of a diver recovering from injury to take part in the Commonwealth Games, which was an exact reflection of what had happened to him in real life. In the build-up to Athens, however, it was Waterfield who provided the injury scare. He hurt his ankle earlier this summer and for a while there were fears that he would not make the Athens team.

Fourth after the first of the five rounds and fifth after the second, Waterfield and Taylor put themselves back in contention with a superb third dive, bettered only by the Chinese. It lifted the Britons into second place, which they kept in the final two rounds.

They never gave up hope of the gold, although for a moment it seemed as though Waterfield and Taylor might have blown their chances of the silver when they performed the very last dive of the competition. Waterfield entered the water noticeably earlier than his colleague and there were anxious looks from the pair and their supporters before the scoreboard confirmed that their marks were good enough to secure the silver.

"I was so fired up for the last dive I went a bit early," Waterfield admitted. To which Taylor added: "And I couldn't catch up with him."

Synchronised diving might sound like a close relation to synchronised swimming, but few would deny its claim to be a proper sport. For one thing, the divers do not wear nose clips and there is no requirement to compete with a fixed smile.

The actual diving is no different to the performance in the individual events. Most of the top divers, including the Britons, compete in the 10m individual competitions and the synchronised version is simply a question of the two men co-ordinating their efforts. Waterfield and Taylor train alone, but get together one week in four to practise their efforts as a team.

Although they rarely looked like catching the Chinese, who had seven perfect marks of 10, it was a stirring performance by Waterfield and Taylor, who must have had visions of a repeat of their 2000 trauma after their first two dives. The Britons had gone to Sydney with real medal hopes but were denied a bronze by just three points.

Instead, the fate of finishing fourth fell last night to Britain's pair in the women's 3m synchronised springboard final. Jane Smith, aged 28 and twice a winner of TV's Gladiators, and Tandi Gerrard, aged 26, were in joint second place after their first dive but paid for a poor second effort, which left them in seventh place. The Britons recovered to go fourth after three dives, a position which they held until the finish.

The gold went to the Chinese pair of Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing, who led throughout. The Russians, Vera Ilyina and Yulia Pakhalina, took the silver and the Australians, Irina Lashko and Chantelle Newbery, the bronze.