Tom Daley failed to claim the medal to silence his critics but his Olympic ambitions look on track after a vastly-improved showing alongside Peter Waterfield in the platform synchro at the FINA World Cup last night.
The duo had been third with two dives to go but, after missing their most difficult penultimate dive, fell down the standings to finish seventh at the Olympic Aquatics Centre.
It still represented a vast improvement on their morning showing, when they scraped through qualification, while their points tally of 419.97 bettered the score they returned at last July’s World Championships.
That was the duo’s last competition together and, after a limited preparation due to injury, last night’s result was a welcome boost to their Olympic ambitions.
Injury to both divers has restricted them to less than two weeks training together this year, and while rustiness was evident in the morning, there was little sign of it later on as they were cheered by a 3,000 strong crowd.
They scored 10s on two separate dives before making their first mistake on the forward four-and-a-half somersault, which ultimately cost them a medal in a final of high quality.
“It was just one dive we missed – that was the difference between getting a medal and not,” Daley said. “The front four-and-a-half is one of those dives that is crucial in the competition. If you nail it you get launched up the scoreboard. If you don’t you drop down. We have to make sure that’s a consistent one.”
The missed dive also denied Daley the chance to prove he was fully committed to his Olympic dream after criticism from British Swimming performance director Alexei Evangulov last week.
The Russian warned that Daley’s media commitments were jeopardising his Olympic hopes while he also claimed his main Chinese rivals “trained three times harder”.
It is an accusation Daley, who revealed he has since met with Evangulov to discuss his comments, denied.
“The thing with Alexei was he had an interview and that was it,” said the 17-year-old. “He knows the amount of training I am doing and that I’m doing the right amount of training.
“I’m doing as much as I can. I’m pushing myself as hard as I can go without my body breaking.”