Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow fail to capitalise on brilliant opening dives


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The Independent Online

Another British if-only. Like their male counterparts the day before, Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow failed to capitalise on a near perfect start in the platform synchro today, subsiding from first place after round one to a disappointing fifth come the conclusion of the last dive.

The immaculate Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao made it three Chinese wins from three diving events so far with clinical ease – the aim is to make it eight out of eight – but there was a moment, just a moment, when they did not sit on top of the scoreboard.

Couch and Barrow have enjoyed a good year, beginning with coming fourth in the world championships and culminating in winning the European championships in Eindhoven two months ago, the first British success for 74 years. Initially they carried that form into London and enjoyed the best possible start.

Backed loudly by another excitable crowd, although yet again the Aquatics Centre was by no means full, the two 23-year-olds opened with a reverse dive, as the Chinese did, and outscored the favourites by 0.6. A battle for gold was never going to follow but it did raise hopes the Britons were going to contend for a medal.

The team’s selection was based around the contention that the pair, who met while doing a children’s gymnastics class in Plymouth, were capable of a podium place. Couch was not chosen for the individual event, despite winning the trials, as Alexei Evangulov, the performance director, wanted her to focus on the pair. Couch appealed but it was turned down.

It was on the third dive, after they had swapped places with China following the second, that it all went wrong. They missed the inward three and a half somersault as Barrow over-rotated. It meant a low score of 5.5 for execution and plummeted them not only out of the medals but down to sixth. It was the equal worst dive of the round among the eight pairs.

“We both had a great experience,” said Couch, who is in her second Games. “Our requireds, our first two dives, were brilliant and it definitely gave us a bit of a boost. Our options weren’t as good as normal but we still scored a lot higher than we did at the Europeans when we became European champions.”

Their final two dives marked a recovery of sorts but the margin to make up on the bronze medal position was too great. They finished 16 points adrift of the third-placed Canadians. Mexico took silver.