Tearful Tom Daley plunged to his lowest ebb in diving after his bid for Olympic gold in Rio unravelled so spectacularly that he failed to qualify for the final of the 10 metres platform event.
The 22-year-old from Plymouth looked well placed to improve on his London 2012 bronze after finishing first in Friday’s preliminary round.
But he endured a poor first three rounds of the semi-final at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre and his inability to recover in the remaining three meant he suffered the ignominy of finishing last of the 18 competitors, with the top 12 making it through.
Daley was at a loss to explain his abysmal performance, which featured his worst scoring dive for eight years, but was adamant he would continue on until Tokyo 2020 after his quest for gold remained unfulfilled.
“It doesn’t get any lower than this,” said Daley, who claimed bronze in the synchronised event alongside Dan Goodfellow.
“Today I don’t really know what went wrong. I’ve no idea.
“I’ve been feeling so good. Training’s been going really well, I’m in the shape of my life, moving better than I’ve ever moved before and last night showed that.
“I gave it my everything and tried my absolute best. It’s just heartbreaking to think that four years of hard work and effort... it’s tough to accept.
“That’s the way diving works. You can be on top of the podium one day and then on the bottom the next day.
“(But) I want to carry on. I want to be the men’s 10m platform Olympic champion.
“It’s given me the motivation now, more than ever, to get up there and do it.”
Daley, in his third Olympics after making his debut in Beijing aged 14, had boldly claimed he would be satisfied with nothing less than gold from his individual event. And despite his serene qualification, featuring six near-flawless dives and a total score of 571.85 points, he floundered in the semi-final.
Diving last of the 18 competitors, Daley struggled from the start. He needed to score better than 101.00 with his final dive but finished with only a score of 50.40 and a total of 403.25.