THERE were fewer seats left unoccupied, and less margin for error last night, as Malaysia’s Ooi Tze Liang pipped England’s Jack Laugher at the death to take the gold medal in the men’s 3m springboard final.
Another Englishman, Oliver Dingley, came in third to win bronze. The fact his parents had gained entry to the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh to view this moment for themselves was a relief for the organisers, who were already assuming an embattled look following mounting criticism.
At a supposedly sold-out event there were still a large number of empty seats, certainly at yesterday’s morning session.
Dingley’s mother and father were among those who could not be accommodated at yesterday preliminary rounds, which made the sight of so many unoccupied seats particularly frustrating for the Southend-based couple. Dingley has been followed to Scotland by a big group of supporters, including a girlfriend, two sisters, an older brother and, last but by no means least, his dear old mum and dad.
It was his dad who had the task of asking strangers in the street if they had any spare tickets so he and his wife could watch their own son perform. The venue was under capacity on Wednesday as well but the sold-out signs had still gone up before each session. The empty seats, organisers later explained, were down to no-shows from sponsors and sports organisations, whose seats could not be re-allocated as they had failed to inform anyone they were not attending.
“They were not able to get tickets for the prelims,” revealed Dingley later, with reference to his mum and dad. “I didn’t know they had got into the evening session until I saw them when I went over and waved to everyone, so it was a sweet moment.
“My dad was outside this morning trying to buy tickets from people but he had no luck. Fortunately he was there for the big one. I haven’t seen them all day but I heard from my team manager that dad was outside trying to buy tickets in the morning. Fortunately he’s here now.”
Dingley was thrilled to have earned a bronze medal after a large surge, and following a pain-killing injection in what was, he revealed, “a very uncomfortable place” as he continues to battle with a rib injury. Laugher, his compatriot, might have been expected to be hurting after losing his grip on the gold medal. However, he was impressively sanguine, and is looking forward to competing in the sychronised 3m springboard final this morning, along with Chris Mears (Tom Daley and new synchronised diving partner James Denny compete in the 10m platform final this evening).
Leading after the first four rounds last night, Laugher scored only 44.5 points – one of the lowest numbers of the night – in the penultimate dive, admittedly his most complicated manoeuvre, to slip back into the silver medal position. This is where he remained at the end, extinguishing his hopes of a second gold medal in 24 hours.
Laugher had looked to be imperious form on Wednesday when winning gold in the 1m springboard final, and led the field in his favoured event after the preliminaries yesterday morning. However, the late slip up allowed Malaysia’s Tze Liang to edge ahead to earn gold, leaving Laugher to cope with a measure of regret at the way he had relinquished the lead when so close to the title, and a famous double. However, as he later said, if you had told him he was heading into the third day of competition with the chance to win a third medal, he would not have believed you.
Laugher explained why he had opted to attempt such a difficult forward four-and-a-half somersault dive, which is where he came unstuck. “When you are playing with the boys in the world fields, you need to be putting in the big dives out there,’ he said. The 17-year-old Scot James Heatly certainly did that, having cause to rue only one poor dive that, he said, was the one disappointment in an otherwise very successful two days of competition. He will now concentrate on supporting compatriot Grace Reid, who competes in the 1m springboard preliminary this morning.