Derek Parr, FINA Media Committee member

Tom Daley pulled off a heroic victory, perhaps the win of a lifetime, when he bounced back from bitter Olympic disappointment to triumph on the 10m tower and regain the world crown he had won eight years earlier.

The 23-year-old Briton had vowed to come back after he crashed out last in the semi-final at the Rio Olympics less than a year earlier, and he made royally good that promise as he consigned Olympic champion Chen Aisen to silver in a titanic battle for gold in Budapest’s Duna Arena.

Tom Daley (GBR) - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Less than two hours earlier Daley had bagged a silver medal in the mixed 3m synchro with Grace Reid, finishing second behind Wang Han and Li Zheng of China.

But the irrepressible Daley made sure that was to be the last of China’s diving titles in Budapest, which left it at eight out of 13, two down on the 10 China achieved at the last FINA World Championships in Kazan in 2015, let alone the 10 out of 10 sweep of 2011.

He battered the scoreboard with no fewer than 12 perfect 10s in his six dives, twice scored more than 100 points for a dive and won the gold with 590.95 points, more than the 585.30 with which Chen won the Olympic final.

Chen, gold medallist in Budapest in the men’s 10m synchro with Yang Hao, also twice notched 100-plus scores but this time it was silver for a total of 585.25. Yang Jian took the bronze on 565.15.

European champion as a small boy of 13 in 2008 and world champion a year later, nobody in the field could draw on as much experience as the Englishman, and Daley was calm and rock-solid throughout the final, leading through each round, with Chen – winner of all four meets in the World Series earlier this year – harrying him all the way.

Yang Jian, who nearly bungled his chance of reaching the final before finishing down in 11th place among the 12 qualifiers from the semi-final, also exerted early pressure on the Briton, putting all the troubles of the previous day behind him with a big dive in the first round which netted 94.50 points.

Chen scored 91.80 on his first effort but Daley outgunned them both, blasting three 10s for a mark of 98.60 for his reverse 3-1/2 somersaults.

Yang and Chen both had 90-plus scores in the second round but Daley stepped up the heat and again outscored them with three more 10s for his inward 3-1/2 somersaults, which stretched his lead over Yang to 5.10 points.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Aleksandr Bondar, who had led the way in the semi-final, dropped fatally out of contention with a fluffed forward 4-1/2 somersaults and plummeted to 12th and last.

It was starting to look like a three-way contest halfway through the six-round final as the top trio each notched 90-plus scores in the third round, with their closest challenger, Maksym Dolgov of Ukraine, 26.50 points behind in fourth place.

Yang faltered a little in the fourth round as Daley forged ahead, netting two more 10s and once more bagging the biggest score of the round with 98.00 for his armstand back three somersaults. Daley was now some 10 points ahead of Chen and 20 ahead of Yang. The gap behind the top three was virtually unbridgeable.

Chen and Daley took the astronomical scores soaring into the stratosphere in the fifth round, each nailing forward 4-1/2 somersaults, which earned Chen 105.45 points and Daley 101.75. 

The men's 10m medallists - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Daley’s lead over Chen was down to 5.70 points and it was now just a duel for gold as Yang was 24.15 points adrift of the lead, and even a huge 104.55 points for his final round forward 4-1/2 somersaults could not change that.

Chen hurled down his last challenge with four 10s in a back 2-1/2 somersaults 2-1/2 twists worth 106.20. Daley, waiting to dive at the top of the tower, was unfazed and matched Chen’s four 10s and 106 points with his own back 3-1/2 somersaults.

To his credit, Bondar, Budapest silver medallist in the men’s 10m synchro with Viktor Minibaev, worked his way back up the order and finished fourth, although his total of 484.80 was no less than 106.15 behind Daley.

Tiny 15-year-old Randal Willars of Mexico earned the precocious distinction of a 10 mark in a world final with his armstand back 3 somersaults in the second round. Benjamin Auffret of France achieved the same feat with the same dive in the fifth round.

China’s hold on the title had looked surprisingly shaky the previous day, with Chen unusually error-prone in the semi-final and Yang managing only 11th.

Daley was the last non-Chinese winner of the world platform title, back in 2009. The next three 10m titles fell to Qiu Bo, silver medallist behind the Briton in 2009, winning in 2011, 2013 and 2015 to become the first man since the great Greg Louganis (1978, 1982 ad 1986) to win diving’s blue riband event three times. But Qiu finished out of the medals at the 2016 Olympics and made his only appearance in Budapest in the mixed team event, in which he and Chen Yiwen finished sixth.

China, who achieved a clean sweep of all 10 diving titles at the 2011 Shanghai Worlds, dropped five of the 13 contested in Budapest – the women’s 1m won by Australia’s Maddison Keeney, the men’s 3m synchro won by Russia’s Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilia Zakharov,  the mixed team event won by Laura Marinou and Matthieu Rosset of France – the first French world championship diving medal of any colour - and the women’s 10m won by Jun Hoong Cheong, Malaysia’s first-ever world diving crown. And, of course, the men’s 10m won by the incomparable Daley.

Mixed 3m synchro

China scooped their eighth diving title of the 17th FINA World Championships when Wang Han and Li Zheng maintained their nation’s hold on the mixed 3m synchro world crown from pairs from Great Britain and Canada.

Wang, silver medallist in the women’s 3m synchro the previous evening, made it two world championship golds out of two in the mixed event, having won the inaugural competition at the 2015 Kazan Worlds with Yang Hao and now retaining the title in Budapest with Li.

Wang and Li and Britain’s Grace Reid and Tom Daley moved into the joint lead in the third round of the five-round contest, stretching significantly clear of third-placed Canadians Jennifer Abel and Francois Imbeau-Dulac.

Jennifer Abel/François Imbeau-Dulac (CAN) - Photo by Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

Wang and Li outscored the Britons with a back 2-1/2 somersaults in the fourth round which hoisted them 10.80 points clear and, with Reid and Daley still to dive, effectively took the gold out of reach with a pair of twisting forward 2-1/2 somersaults. Those two dives were each worth 77.40 points, the highest marks of the day.

Even if gold looked beyond them, Daley and Reid could not afford to slip up on their concluding forward 3-1/2 somersaults and they did not falter, claiming the silver 15 points behind the Chinese duo and 10 ahead of the Canadians.

Wang and Li amassed 323.70 points from their five dives, with Reid and Daley second on 308.04 and Abel and Imbeau-Dulac third on 297.92.

Wang, 26, has now won seven medals at the Worlds: 1m bronze in 2009, 1m silver in 2011, 3m silver and 1m bronze in 2013, mixed 3m synchro gold in 2015 and 3m silver and mixed 3m synchro gold in 2017.

Daley, 10m world champion and set to contest the Budapest 10m final shortly after the mixed 3m synchro, was an inaugural world mixed team event champion in 2015 with Rebecca Gallantree. Reid was fourth in the Budapest women’s 3m final the day before the mixed synchro,

Abel snapped up her third Budapest medal, adding the mixed 3m synchro bronze to the women’s 3m synchro and individual 3m bronzes already in her possession. She and Imbeau-Dulac were silver medallists in the mixed 3m synchro in 2015 and took three silvers and a bronze behind the all-conquering Wang and Li in the four meets of this year’s World Series.

European champions Elena Bertocchi and Maicol Verzotto of Italy had to settle for seventh, Verzotto having claimed bronze in 2015 when he partnered Tania Cagnotto, who retired after winning the first two Olympic medals of her long career at the 2016 Rio Games.