LONDON — A fifth triumph for the unbeaten Chinese at the Diving World Cup on Thursday provided the home crowd with a dose of realism ahead of the London Olympics.
Thousands had packed into the new $426-million Aquatics Center hoping to see teenage diver Tom Daley match the hype by winning a gold medal at home only five months before the Olympics.
China's Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan had other ideas. In fact, five other pairs also finished above Daley and partner Pete Waterfield in the 10-meter synchronized platform event.
"We won the gold medal two years ago, so it's not a new thing (for us)," Cao said. "It was a combination of hard work and good luck."
The Britons, who finished 61.32 points behind the winners, would relish such good fortune. Even their coach, Alexei Evangulov, has reservations and went public with his belief that Daley could be too focused on his burgeoning media career.
"He's very active, not like the Chinese," Evangulov said last week. "The Chinese have restricted their divers and I support them on this. I would recommend Tom to make not so many commitments to the media."
The 17-year-old Daley fronted up to the media on Thursday.
The poster boy of the London Olympics, who competed at 14 at the Beijing Games, mounted a strong defense of his commitment to the sport, blaming a recent thumb injury for his struggles.
"(Alexei) knows the amount of training I am doing and that I'm doing the right amount of training," he said. "I'm doing as much as I can. I'm pushing myself as hard as I can go without my body breaking. Diving is something I love to do. I do it because it's fun and I want to do well in it. That's the only reason I'm in the sport."
Waterfield and Daley, whose mother Debbie watched clutching a Union Jack flag, were third with two dives to go but they dropped down the standings after missing their most difficult dive in the next-to-last round.
"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.Comment on this story
"It's an on-the-day sport. The Chinese are doing really well on most days ... it's China's to throw away in the Olympics."
Daley, who won the individual 10-meter platform at the 2009 world championships, retains the backing of his partner.
"We didn't miss out because Tom has been doing too much media," Waterfield said. "We missed the dives because we've had setbacks with injuries since the beginning of the year."
Zhang and Cao finished 21.12 points ahead of Mexican pair Ivan Alejandro Garcia and German Sanchez. Patrick Hausding and Stephan Feck of Germany took bronze.