Diving: Team GB's Chris Mears qualifies for tonight's men's three-metre springboard final

 

Chris Mears again beat the odds to qualify for tonight's men's three-metre springboard final with his international best score.

Mears, ranked 48th in the world this year, was not even expected to progress past last night's preliminary round but will now dive for an Olympic medal.

The 19-year-old earned that right with the performance of his career, highlighted by a near-perfect forward four-and-a-half somersault, as he posted 461.00 to place ninth.

The result continued Mears' impressive Olympics three years after he was given just a five per cent chance of survival after collapsing during a junior competition in Australia.

The Reading diver had his spleen removed after it was belatedly discovered he ruptured it performing a dive during the Youth Olympic Festival in January 2009.

He lost five pints of blood and was eventually diagnosed with the Epstein Barr virus which left him recovering in an Australian hospital for a month.

His parents were in tears after he finished fifth alongside Nick Robinson-Baker in the springboard synchro last week and they were again left overjoyed this morning.

They were pictured bouncing up and down in an embrace on the Aquatics Centre big screen when Mears drew eights for his forward four-and-a-half somersault - his hardest and final dive - to secure his unlikely final berth.

His score was 25 points more than his previous international best set just last night of 436.05.

Mears' performance also helped make up for the disappointment of rising star Jack Laugher's shock exit last night.

Seventh-ranked Laugher, 17, endured a miserable performance that finished with a failed dive and scores of zero.

But Mears, the only teenager left in the competition, ensured Great Britain had reason to smile again.

Defending Olympic champion He Chong qualified in first place ahead of Russia's Ilya Zakharov, who looms as a major threat to China's hopes of sweeping the gold medals in the diving pool.

"That was the best performance of my life in front of a home crowd just when it mattered. Now I can say I'm an Olympic finalist," Mears said.

"I can't quite believe it to be honest.

"I've come from a long way back in 2009. I've had a hard time. To be stood up there representing my country and to do a performance like that is absolutely amazing.

"I had no expectations. I was happy to come 18th so it turns out I came ninth."

Mears revealed he had seen his parents Katy and Paul on the big screen, with his dad seen to utter "Oh my God" as he wiped away tears.

"I did see them. They were going wild," he said.

"I could hear them before every dive because they were the first ones to always shout and they always will be.

"It's fantastic, I'm so glad they are here.

"They've seen me at my lowest. That must hurt them pretty badly, but I'm sure for them to see what I am doing now they're very supportive of it and happy."

PA

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