Diving: Daley and Waterfield see medal chances evaporate

 

It takes, as Tom Daley often likes to point out, 1.6 seconds to plunge from the top of the 10m platform into the water and that is how long it took Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield to see their hopes of a medal disappear today.

In gold medal position at the halfway stage of the 10m synchro, the British pair's fourth dive went disastrously wrong. A range of marks between six and eight, as opposed to the nines and above they had been happily gathering, meant they dropped to fourth after four rounds and there they remained, nine painful points and one place off the podium.

The gold went to the immaculate Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang, both younger than Daley, and while challenging the world's outstanding pairing was always likely to prove beyond Daley and Waterfield, failing to claim a medal in front of another rowdy home crowd was a disappointment as deep as the diving pool in the Aquatics Centre. Silver went to the daring Mexican duo of German Sanchez Sanchez [cor!!] and Ivan Garcia Navarro, who pulled of the most technically difficult dive of the afternoon, and bronze to Nicholas McCrory and David Boudia of the US.

After a good season on the world series circuit the British pair had a notable chance of a medal - David Cameron was in the audience and there's a man who can spot a bandwagon a mile off - but it is a sport in which the margin of error is so tight that one dropped dive is more than enough to ruin an otherwise good programme.

For Waterfield, in his fourth Games and a silver medallist in Athens, it is the end of the line. Daley will dive again, this time off the 10m platform on his own in 11 days time. Tomorrow morning he returns to the team's training camp in Southend, a plan agreed ahead of the Games to give him a break from the hype and hubbub that surrounds the Olympic Park.

He has a strong chance of a medal then - again it is likely to be a case of competing for the lesser place on the podium behind China's Qiu Bo - as he has never dived better than in the last few months. But then he and Waterfield had never performed better than this season.

"The last two dives were brilliant but it's just not enough," said Daley. "It started off really well. We got a PB in the first two. The third dive was really good.  It was just our fourth dive. Miss one dive like that and you're gone. It's the way sport goes."

The first three dives, which included two compulsory routines, were not far short of perfect. As they stepped on to the board for the first time a roar swelled from the crowd - the venue was disappointingly once again not full - but instead of raising their nerves it settled them.

"I was more calm than I thought I was going to be," said Waterfield, 13 years Daley's senior, and after that first dive they shared the lead with the 17-year-old Cao and Zhang, a year older. The next two efforts went even better and at the halfway point they had a lead of 2.4points over the Chinese.

Then came the fateful fourth dive, a reverse three and a half somersault tuck. It was not the most difficult in their programme - its rating is 3.3, their fifth dive was 3.7 and the Mexicans most demanding was 4.1.The synchronisation was out and Daley hit the water fractionally ahead of his partner. Both had missed their entries, Waterfield more noticeably so.

"I just kicked my feet a little too high, which means I was over-rotated," said Waterfield. "Once you've kicked and over-rotated, you can't fix it and that left us with too much to do."

Waterfield clambered out of the pool and apologised to his partner; Daley delivered a quick pep talk and although they recovered their poise the damage was done. From first at the start of the round they slipped to fourth, the Mexicans and US taking full advantage.

It made it two out of two in the diving events for China - their aim is to sweep the programme as they did in last year's world championships. The concern for Daley is that brilliant as Cao and Zhang were yesterday - they have never lost an international competition - Bo is better. China's level of performance in the diving pool is frankly awesome.

As for the Britons, there was a hug after their final dive, a quick glance at the scoreboard for conformation they were out of the medals before heading beneath the stands to face the inquisition. "We're a team, end of the day that's it - full stop," said Daley. "We win together, we lose together."

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