Ashley Newman, FINA Correspondent in Great Britain

The last day of the last leg of the 2019 FINA/CNSG Diving World Series in London saw action from home-grown superstar Thomas Daley as he graced the podium twice, picking up gold with Grace Reid in the mixed 3m synchro and bronze in the men’s 10m platform. 

Australia’s Maddison Keeney did the same except for upgrading to silver in the mixed 3m synchro, while picking up gold in her individual 3m springboard event.

Of course China went home with some gold as they usually do, with Yang Hao taking gold in the men’s 10m platform, followed by Lian Junjie who took the silver medal.
Chinese double trouble for Daley

Daley saw himself sandwiched between China’s Yang and Lian going into the final of the men’s 10m platform with all three posting impressive scores of 554.90, 542.65 and 538.50 respectively. This was in spite of Daley gaining the highest score in the most difficult, forward 4 ½ somersault dive, with 103.60 points to Yang’s 101.75.

Daley was pretty pleased with that as he said after the semi-final:

“This time last year I was in a rough way with my health and a whole year later not to have shins that are about to snap and not being sick, and now being a parent, it’s changed my whole perspective on everything. It’s changed the way that my body and my mind works. I’m able to compartmentalise so many different things – my work stuff is at the pool and when I leave I’m able to leave it at the pool which I was never able to do before.”

While that may be, it was not so easy for the British hero in the final, as he danced between the lower ranks in the early rounds before performing when it mattered in the last round with his back 3 ½ somersaults to total his score at 525.25 behind Lian’s 532.10 and Yang’s gold medal winning 559.15.

Following that, Daley added:

“I wish it was a different colour medal but I missed my third round dive and I can’t expect to miss a dive that badly and still win. But I knew I was still on the hunt for medals even though I was in last place after that round. I knew that if I stayed focused and stayed in my own zone I would be able to come back. I am really happy with the dive and that I managed to fight back for a bronze.”

Conversely, Yang said of his win:

“I wasn’t looking at the scores during the rounds and I didn’t have enough confidence coming into this event as I haven’t been training very well. My training wasn’t at the same level as my performance today. I lost three of the five series but I’m satisfied with gold because I persisted.”

Abel still thankful after losing out to Keeney

Keeney got off the blocks quickly in the semi-finals of the women’s 3m springboard to qualify first for the final in front of Canada’s Jennifer Abel, who came into the competition ranked first to Keeney’s fourth. Keeney then took that fight into the final to take her second gold of this leg of the series with 368.30 points, after snatching the 3m synchro gold from the Chinese favourites earlier in the weekend.

Keeney said of her second win:

“I can’t believe it. I didn’t think I’d get one gold medal let alone two. I’ve been training well this whole week so it is what I could do. I’m not too focused on the outcome, more my individual dive performances. If I got beaten in this competition I’d still be really happy with how it went. The round two dive (reverse 3 ½ somersaults) is quite new for me so it’s always going to be inconsistent so I’m just working on that.”

Before heading into the mixed 3m synchro event she added:

“Mixed is a bit of fun. Me and Domonic Bedggood my partner haven’t trained together since we competed last week so we’re just kind of winging it.”

Abel had more of a rollercoaster final, starting well in the early rounds but then dropping to fifth place in the fifth round but ultimately pulling her most difficult dive out of the bag – the forward 2 ½ somersaults 2 twists – to walk away with silver and a final score of 353.05. Nur Dhabitah Binti Sabri of Malaysia also had her ups and downs through the rounds, but managed to secure bronze with 344.40, just 0.15 points in front of Daley’s golden mixed 3m synchro partner Reid.

Abel said:

“It was a tough competition. I missed one dive – I knew I was fifth after that dive so I had to put my biggest dive down if I wanted to get a chance to be on the podium. So I went for it. When you miss a dive it doesn’t mean it’s over. You never know what the other girls are going to do.”

On her biggest dive, a 3.4 forward 2 ½ somersaults 2 twists, she had help from her synchro partner Francois Imbeau-Dulac, who she has paired with since 2015.

“We were training a lot in 2015 and 2016 since I was learning that dive to compete like a man,” said Abel.

“That last dive we do together (in the synchro as well) – I wouldn’t have been able to do that dive as good as I do it right now if it wasn’t for him and I will never be able to thank him enough for that.”

First gold for British synchro pair

Abel’s silver certainly gave her confidence going into the mixed 3m synchro, starting strongly with Imbeau-Dulac, although their final 319.02 score was not enough for gold, being outdone by both Keeney once more with Bedggood, and also the British pairing of Daley and Reid. While Keeney and Bedggood’s approach of “winging it” in the final served them well in the early rounds, they began to drop down the order from the third before finishing second with 322.14 points.

Daley and Reid however, remained consistently in the top two from the third round, before the final push at the last for a 322.89 points finish to take their first ever synchro gold. Reid was dumbstruck as she said:

“Unbelievable. I went into this afternoon knowing that it was going to be a really tough field. As I did this morning I went dive by dive and to walk away with a PB is just massive. I think the first couple of months of the year I was struggling to trust the process, a bit concerned maybe I wasn’t doing it right, and now things are starting to fall into place I’m excited to work even harder and see where I am.”

Daley was also delighted with the win and their future prospects after such a successful Diving World Series:

“This is where it all gets serious now especially with the World Championships. It is such an important event for us and so crucial for British Diving to be able to qualify for those spots at the Olympic Games whether that be in the synchro where we have to come top three or individual where we have to come top 12, so we just have to keep working hard to make sure we can get those spots for Team GB.”