Hubbard's Cupboard: Different world when Cane was bedridden after his bellyflop

The man with incredible tales from past Games

It's synch or swim for Britain's most talked-about young Olympian Tom Daley and his veteran partner Pete Waterfield this afternoon. The hope is their harmonious togetherness will make a big splash (or rather not too much of one) in the state-of-the art Aquatic Centre where the facilities for swimming and diving are some distance from London's first Games in 1908.

Those had a large water tank constructed in the middle of the Olympic Stadium at White City. All very basic – although there was an intriguingly hi-tech touch to the diving.

At one side of the pool, a large retractable diving tower was constructed, and when not in use it was lowered below the surface of the water. It could be raised in a few minutes when required and caused great entertainment for the crowd, much as the giant chimney stacks did on Friday in the 2012 opening ceremony's Industrial Revolution sequence.

No synchronised event in 1908, just men-only individual high diving off five metre and 10-metre platforms and what was labelled Fancy Diving off three and one-metre springboards with contestants judged by their grace and control rather than technical elements. High divers performed a running plain dive and a backward somersault off the five-metre board, a running plain dive and a standing plain dive from the 10-metre board, and three dives of the competitor's choice.

One of the British high divers, G F Cane, was so seriously shaken when he bellyflopped into the water attempting a double somersault he was bedridden for 10 days. He was in medal contention and Swedish rivals sportingly presented him with a silver cup.

Tom and Pete will be seeking more than a consolation prize when battling the Chinese today; one omen is that in 1908 one of the individual gold medallists, German Albery Zumar, was like Daley, just 18. Fancy that.

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