London 2012 Olympics: Tom Daley dives to bronze
WITH one dive remaining in last night’s men’s 10m platform final, Tom Daley found himself at the top of the leaderboard.
It meant that he was one dive away from a gold medal, having leapfrogged the two Chinese and one American who were in front of him going into the evening’s final, despite saying after the morning’s semi-final that bronze would feel the same as gold, and that anything higher would be equivalent to platinum.
This, then, put him in the realm of fantasy. One dive. It was a reverse three-and-a-half somersault, rated the second easiest of his six dives. He perched on the edge of the platform, blinked, threw himself into his first somersault, then entered the water to an enormous cheer from the audience.
Their response was slightly more muted when the score came through: 90.75 was good, but perhaps not good enough to withstand the challenge of the three divers still to finish. And so it proved: the American David Boudia performed the highest scoring dive of the night and then Qiu Bo produced the second best. They had saved their best for last, which added even more lustre to their medals, a surprising gold for Boudia, with Bo taking silver, leaving Daley with bronze.
When his third place was confirmed, the 18-year-old looked happy. He has his Olympic medal, and after all that he has been through – from the death last year of his father, to his coach’s criticism of his commercial activities, to online abuse from Twitter trolls, to the narrow failure to win a medal in the doubles last week – it will seem as valuable as gold.
Daley’s apparent defeatism ahead of the final might have been a bit of expectation-management, but he couldn’t really be accused of exaggerating the hopelessness of the cause. He sat fourth after the morning’s semi-final, behind David Boudia and the untouchable Chinese divers, Lin Yue and Bo.
There was drama at the start, after Daley’s first dive. He emerged from the water shaking his head, and with the British performance director, Alexei Evangulov, already marching towards the officials. Daley joined the discussion, explaining that a flash had gone off at the moment he dived. The officials agreed and Daley was permitted a re-dive. Whereas his first dive’s score of 75.6 would have been the poorest of all 12 finalists, his second, much cleaner effort, placed him third. The protest had been worth it, and the flash photographers were given a stern warning.
Lin and Bo continued to dive with mesmerising consistency, scoring nines after nines after nines, and entering the water, each time, with barely a ripple. Daley had compared Bo, the world’s top ranked diver, to a robot, and the impression was confirmed as the competition unfolded.
Yet a challenger emerged in the shape of Boudia, the American who had qualified third in the morning, and the man Daley must have thought he was competing with for bronze. When Daley scored 92.75 with an armstand back triple somersault, Boudia promptly stepped up and nailed a forward, four-and-a-half somersault, worth 99.9. After three dives, Boudia topped the leaderboard ahead of the two Chinese, with Daley fourth.
Then, a shaft of light. After Daley’s best dive of the night, also his most difficult, scored 98.05, Lin produced the first – and only – evidence that he was fallible. He messed up his fourth dive, the forward four-and-a-half somersault, to score only 68.45. From second, he slid out of the medals altogether.
All Daley had to do was maintain his position. Although it looked briefly as if he might do even better than that, he continued to dive consistently, and well enough for bronze. But, as he said in the morning, it will feel like gold.
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