• British pair see off Germans to finish behind China and USA at Olympics
  • Tom Daley adds Rio synchro 10m platform medal to London individual bronze
    Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow
    Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow winning bronze in the 10m platform synchro diving.

    One moment they were wide-eyed, wondering and waiting on the water’s edge with mouths agape. Freeze frame. Then as the scores flashed up their eyes shone, they embraced for what seemed like an eternity and tumbled together into the pool in rather less ordered fashion.

    “Top bombing,” beamed Tom Daley afterwards, a bronze medal that represented redemption after disappointment in this event in Beijing and London hanging around his neck.

    Beside him Dan Goodfellow, his 19-year-old dive partner for just nine months and fearless when it matters, still seemed dazed. Not everything had been perfect up to that point but, with the pressure on before their final round, Daley – now the old hand at the grand old age of 22 – and Goodfellow delivered. As they did so, they secured the bronze that for Daley laid to rest the demons of London, when he finished fourth in the same event, and four years earlier in Beijing when he had come last as a 14-year-old amid a very public falling-out with his then dive partner, Blake Aldridge.

After five rounds of nip and tuck jousting for third, the pair executed a difficult back three-and-a-half somersault pike to claim bronze with a score of 89.64, well clear of the 83.62 they needed.

Seconds earlier, alone on the board, they had screwed their eyes closed in concentration before the very last dive of the competition. They had been here before.

The Germans with whom the pair were tussling for third place, Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein, had pipped them to gold in May’s European championships, in the London Aquatics Centre, where Goodfellow over-rotated on the final dive.

“We didn’t want to let that happen again. I said to Dan afterwards: ‘Don’t worry we’ll get them at the Olympics.’ And we did,” said Daley, shouting over a PA still booming out Don’t Stop Believing.

As the first British diver to win multiple Olympic medals – he took an individual bronze in London – and the chance of another to come later next week in the individual event, he now has the sporting accolades on the ultimate stage to match his fame and talent.

Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow
Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow secure bronze for Great Britain.

The setting here, beneath scaffolding and framed by tower blocks, was not exactly the iconic framing of Barcelona. Darkening skies added to the intensity of the battle for third, which remained close to the end.

Gold was a different story. Perhaps inevitably, it was the Chinese favourites – Chen Aisen and Lin Yue – who took an early hold on the contest and refused to let go. They faltered with their fourth dive, but only relative to their otherwise extraordinary, breathtaking synchronicity.

Between dives the pair would don puffa jackets and stare intently into the middle distance, returning to their task like metronomes each round. As the difficulty level rose, they took hold of the contest and did not let go.

A forward four-and-a-half somersault tuck in the fifth round had the Chinese pair and their delegation punching the air and the crowd exhaling then cheering.

As they seized gold there was a smile, a hug, a nod of the head and a handshake between the pair. Job done. That they finished 39.87 points clear merely underlined their dominance.

In contrast the US pair who claimed silver, David Boudia and Steele Johnson, wept and embraced as their sixth and final dive confirmed their second-place finish.

When Daley and Goodfellow boldly followed the Chinese with the same difficult dive in the fifth round, they had done enough to rise back up the leaderboard to third as they jousted with the Germans and crowd pleasing Mexican pair Iván García and Germán Sánchez.

It is six weeks since Daley swapped Plymouth for London to move in with his diving partner Goodfellow. The pair are also rooming together in the Olympic Village and have struck a solid rapport that to Daley’s evident delight and relief extended to the competition. They bonded over box sets of Game of Thrones, speaking in the run-up about the connection they had forged in the nine months they had been diving together.

In an event where an almost telepathic understanding is required, and some pairs have been endlessly tumbling into the water together for a decade or more, the rapidity with which they clicked was key.

They appeared to be just a little out of synch for their first three dives, which were still good enough to leave them third at the halfway stage behind the Chinese and American pairs. But, as the difficulty level rose, Daley and Goodfellow dropped to fifth following a fourth-round dive in which the latter created more splash than he would have liked on entering the water.

Ever since his precocious debut as a fresh-faced 14-year-old in Beijing, Daley has been one of the defining faces of Team GB’s rise from also-rans to world beaters, via the feelgood carnival of London 2012. Even at the kit launch for the 2016 vintage, now stuffed full of world beaters, he was centre stage in his tiny trunks.

Given his ubiquity away from the pool and his undoubted prowess in it at world championships and other competitions, it was jarring to remember that Daley only had one Olympic bronze to his name – that memorable moment in the 10m individual platform four years ago. And even more so to realise that time has compressed to the extent that Daley is now at his third Olympics and it is his younger partner who is the less experienced of the pair.

It has been a long journey for Daley from Beijing to Rio and plenty of water has passed under the platform. But through all those TV appearances, precocious interviews, that sorry tale of cyber bullying, the redemptive bronze in London and his unapologetic openness about his sexuality, he has retained his undimmed optimism, sunny disposition and love of his sport.

This time last year it appeared unlikely that Daley – who is ranked second in the world in both the synchro and the individual 10m events – would even compete in the former here. He had opted not to compete as part of a pair in 2015 and it was only a chance trial that brought him together with Goodfellow. Daley said afterwards that he could now relax and target gold in the individual event next week. In this mood, he has every chance.