Team GB's Chris Mears and Nick Robinson-Baker spring into action

 

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The Independent Online

Chris Mears' parents were left in tears in the Aquatics Centre grandstand after their 19-year-old son made his Olympic debut today - three years after he almost lost his life during a junior competition in Australia.

Mears and springboard synchro partner Nick Robinson-Baker produced one of the performances of their careers to claim fifth in a high-quality final.

While world champions Qin Kai and Luo Yutong nervelessly clinched yet another diving gold for China, the emotion of the Britons' performance was plain to see at the end.

Mears was given just a five per cent chance of survival when he collapsed during the Youth Olympic Festival in January 2009 after rupturing his spleen performing a dive the previous day.

After initially being misdiagnosed with meningitis Mears lost five pints of blood and had his spleen removed after it was eventually discovered he had contracted the Epstein Barr virus.

He spent a month in an Australian hospital as he slowly made his way back to full health before beginning his journey to the Olympic Games and a performance to remember today.

"My parents are up there and they were crying," Mears said.

"I know it means a lot to them and it definitely means a lot to me. To have come from where I came from in 2009 and now being in the Olympic Games and coming fifth in the world - I can't quite believe it actually.

"It is in the back of my mind and I think 'that's a really great achievement' but there's no negative input in that.

"I've come this far from pretty much rock-bottom and this is where I am now. I'm just so happy."

Mears and Robinson-Baker had only been an outside hope of a medal, although a career-best second-placing behind the Chinese at the final World Series event in Mexico in April had them dreaming of a podium place.

Their score of 432.60 today was just shy of the personal best they posted in Mexico but stand-out performances from their rivals meant they were still 14.1 points short of a medal.

The Chinese were well clear in claiming their fourth diving gold and are on track for a clean sweep of the top podium, while Russia's Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov took silver.

United States pairing Kristian Ipsen and Troy Dumais - who collected his first Olympic medal at the fourth attempt - finished third.

"It isn't our PB, but 432 in the final of the Olympics Games, when it's probably been the highest standard it's ever been, was absolutely phenomenal for us. We're buzzing," Robinson-Baker said.

"I could go and do it again now.

"We've got the two Russians who I think have amazing talent, they train so hard and it shows.

"The Americans are very experienced with Troy Dumais and Kristian and they've smashed it. That's what the sport is all about - going in there and competing and the best team wins."

The fifth placing was also the equal-best performance by a British springboard synchro pairing - after Mark Shipman and Tony Ally managed the same result at Athens 2004.

"Fifth place. That makes us feel so happy that we are the equal most successful team on the springboard," said Mears.

"That's just another thing to add to the excitement."

Robinson-Baker revealed afterwards that he was set to take a mini break from the sport after the Games to recharge his batteries after nearly a decade in competition.

The 25-year-old hinted, though, that he would be keen to resume his partnership with Mears looking ahead to Rio 2016.

"I'll take a little break first. There is another four years to go," he said.

"I know Chris is well up for that but I'm taking a little time out because I'm getting old. But roll on Rio."

Mears' plans are more immediate as he is due to return to the Aquatics Centre next Monday for the preliminary round of the individual springboard.

"I've still got the individual in these Olympics so I don't want to look too far into the future just yet," he said.

"I'm concentrating on the now, my training has been brilliant and I think I showed that in the pool today."

PA

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