Mears and springboard synchro partner, City of Sheffield diver Nick Robinson-Baker, produced one of the performances of their careers to claim fifth in a high-quality final.
While world champions Qin Kai and Luo Yutong nervelessly clinched yet another diving gold for China, the emotion of the Britons’ performance was plain to see at the end.
Mears was given just a five per cent chance of survival when he collapsed during the Youth Olympic Festival in January 2009 after rupturing his spleen performing a dive the previous day and contracted the Epstein Barr virus.
He spent a month in an Australian hospital as he slowly made his way back to full health.
“My parents are up there and they were crying,” Mears said.
“I know it means a lot to them and it definitely means a lot to me. To have come from where I came from in 2009 and now being in the Olympic Games and coming fifth in the world – I can’t quite believe it actually.
“I’ve come this far from pretty much rock-bottom and this is where I am now. I’m just so happy.”
The pair’s score of 432.60 was just shy of their personal best.
“It isn’t our PB, but 432 in the final of the Olympics Games, when it’s probably been the highest standard it’s ever been, was absolutely phenomenal for us. We’re buzzing,” said 25-year-old Robinson-Baker, who plans to take a mini break from the sport.
“I’ll take a little break first. There is another four years to go,” he said.
“I know Chris is well up for that but I’m taking a little time out because I’m getting old. But roll on Rio.”