Diving day 8 - David Boudia (USA) crowned new champion in 10m platform, Daley (GBR) secures bronze

London 2012 Diving

The entire United Kingdom had been expecting this final since 2008. In January of that year, Thomas (Tom) Daley became the youngest winner ever of a British 10m platform senior title at the age of… 13! He got immediately spotted as a bright and talented diver, and when two months later he won the European crown in his pet event, the experts were unanimous: Beijing 2008 (in August that year) was still too early but this "boy" would have a rendezvous with history in 2012, at his home Games in London! Since then, many competitions have been contested and many successes have been collected, namely the 2009 world title in Rome (ITA), at 15. Today, August 11, millions of UK TV spectators and many thousands of fans in the Aquatics Centre turned their attention to the now called "poster boy": 15th of the heats (after a missed back 3 ½ somersault, DD 3.6) and fourth in the semis, Daley certainly felt the weight of pressure coming into tonight's final.

Besting him in the semis, Bo Qiu (CHN), the 2011 world champion, Yue Lin (CHN), 2008 Olympic gold medallist in the 10m platform synchro, and David Boudia (USA), silver medallist behind Qiu in Shanghai, were his main rivals to reach the highest podium. The semi-finals in the morning had been already impressive, with few mistakes and very high marks for the majority of divers. The (negative) surprises at this stage were the elimination of 2008 Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham (AUS, 13th) and of the 2007 world champion Gleb Galperin (RUS, 16th), while in the heats, Malaysian Bryan Nickson (19th) and Peter Waterfield (GBR, 23rd) were not at their best level.

In the final, Boudia emerged as the surprising winner while Qiu took the silver and Daley conquered his so desired medal, a bronze. It was the second medal of the Games for Boudia (23 years old), after his bronze medal finish in the synchronised event. Moreover, it is the first individual men's gold medal for USA in Olympic diving since Mark Lenzi's triumph in the 3m springboard event in 1992! This success also meant the second defeat for China in London, after losing the gold in the men's 3m springboard – the remaining six events on the programme being won by the Asian diving powerhouse. Boudia's biggest achievement before this gold medal was a silver in the same event at the 2011 Worlds in Shanghai. For Great Britain, Daley's medal comes after the 2004 silver success in the 10m platform synchro by Peter Waterfield/Leon Taylor, while the last individual podium appearance dated back to 1960 (Brian Phelps' bronze, also in the 10m platform).

Things started dramatically for Daley at exactly 20:39, when performing his first dive, a back 2 ½ somersault 2 ½ twists, pike (DD 3.6). Spoiling his entry, the British star left the water and immediately simulated with his hands the flashes of the photo cameras in the spectators' stand. A protest is immediately lodged to the referee and Daley is allowed to perform again the combination, this time in a more successful way (91.80, against 75.60 for the first dive). This allows him to take the third provisional place, behind Martin Wolfram (GER) and David Boudia (USA), better noted for their armstand dives (also DD 3.6). Lin and Qiu were fourth (91.20) but with less difficult dives (DD 3.2).

alt
credit: Giorgio Scala 

In round 2, Daley received a very good score (86.40) for the easiest combination of his programme (DD 3.2) while Qiu and Lin had flawless dives for a respective DD 3.3 and DD 3.5, climbing to the top-two positions (with Qiu in the lead). Boudia is third and Wolfram is fourth, both achieving the same score than Daley (also in the same dive, an inward 3 ½ somersault, tuck). Daley finished the round in fifth.

In the following round, Wolfram missed his entry on a reverse 3 ½ somersault, tuck (DD 3.3) and things started to be more defined in the top of the ranking. Boudia was leading at this stage after a magnificent forward 4 ½ somersault, tuck (DD 3.7), scoring 99.90, while Qiu and Lin followed in second and third respectively, after two solid performances. Daley was also quite consistent in his armstand back triple somersault, pike (DD 3.5) and moved up one spot (taking fourth). For the record, the total DD for these four athletes was of 20.9 for Daley and Qiu, 21.0 for Lin and 21.1 for Boudia. The highest accumulated DD of this final belonged to Mexico's Ivan Garcia, with 21.8.

In round 4, things went wrong for Lin, who lacked some rotation in his forward 4 ½ somersault, missing the entry and getting 68.45 from the judges. This poor performance downgraded him to fifth position. Boudia was once more excellent in a DD 3.3 dive (90.75) while Qiu earned a 93.60 for his back 3 ½ somersault, pike (DD 3.6). Daley was not as strong as Boudia in the forward 4 ½ somersault (98.05) but reached the third place behind the Chinese (second) and North American (first).

The fifth round arrived and Daley managed an excellent back 3 ½ somersault, pike (DD 3.6), totalling 97.20. For the same combination, Boudia got "only" 91.80 points while Qiu was the less successful of the trio in the forward 4 ½ somersault, collecting 94.35 points. Daley took the lead with a 0.15 advance over Boudia (second). Qiu placed third and Lin improved to fourth. The atmosphere in the Aquatics Centre was electric and the advantage would go, in theory, for Boudia in the last dive, since he had a more difficult combination (DD 3.6) than Daley (DD 3.3).

In the last round, an ecstatic Daley left the water after a successful (90.75) reverse 3 ½ somersault (tuck) but a flawless back 2 ½ somersault 2 ½ twists (pike) from Boudia earned a powerful 102.60. This score allowed him to total 568.65 for the gold, while silver went to Qiu, also very solid with 100.80 in the same dive and second in 566.85. Daley secured the bronze medal with a final score of 556.95. 

At the end of the competition, Boudia could not believe what was happening, Qiu was crying against a wall and the entire British delegation was in the water to celebrate the success of their 18-year-old prodigy. It was the fourth medal for Great Britain in Aquatics at these Games, after one silver and two bronze medals in the swimming competition.

"It's very hard to believe. When I was 13, I was petrified with the height of the 10m platform; it took me almost six years to overcome that fear and here I am now, after winning the Olympic gold medal in this event!", confessed Boudia. "My goal was to focus on one dive at a time. During the final, I didn't know where I was placed, and of course I wasn't aware that I was in a gold medal contention," continued the new Olympic champion, only 18th (last qualifying place) in the heats. Asked about the re-dive for Daley, the US diver replied: "His coach simply did what he had to do! For me, it was even good because I had more time to relax and concentrate on my dive." Finally, on the comments mentioning the end of the Chinese supremacy in this discipline, Boudia declared: "The rest of the world is definitively catching up behind China – in a final like today, there are at least 8 guys with possibilities to win – one day is Bo, one day is Daley, in Beijing was Mitcham and tonight it was me. That's what diving is all about!"  

Despite his evident frustration after the competition, Qiu appeared relaxed at the press conference: "I am not that surprised with this outcome. Everyone has done a great job tonight and I've done my best. In fact, I'm a bit disappointed, but happy at the same time because it's my first Games and I got a medal, the silver." Asked about the China's overall performance in the diving events at these Games, he continued: "The dominance of China is a result of everybody's contribution – even if I didn't get the gold, this doesn't mean that we won't take it again! That's the beauty of this sport!" 

alt
credit: Giorgio Scala 

A delighted and smiling Tom Daley also shared his thoughts with the media: "it's simply an amazing experience, after all the difficult times I had in the last 18 months [namely the death of his father]. Despite all the ups and downs, the medal is here!" On how he managed the national pressure to perform well, he declared: "That pressure was quite intense and after the fourth place in the synchronised event I felt devastated. But the support of the crowd has been terrific and certainly contributed to this outcome." Asked about the re-dive episode, Daley recalled: "While on the board, I saw the flashing, but I decided to ignore it, thinking that it would stop. It didn't, and when I took off I got disoriented with it, so this home advantage was in fact more of a home disadvantage. Fortunately, the referee also saw what happened and allowed the re-dive, which was crucial to the final result of the competition." On the Chinese dominance, the "poster boy" added: "In Beijing, they  won seven out of 8, here they won six, perhaps in Rio they will win five out of 8. I am over the moon with the bronze, but hopefully in Rio, I will be able to change the colour of the medal…" Commenting on the tiny difference going to the last round of dives: "It was indeed very close and I knew that I didn't have chances for the gold because of my DD, but I went there and I gave everything. It was a kind of do or die!"