Tom must breach the Great Wall: China's Bo stands in the way of Daley's bid for diving glory after scraping through qualifiers
22:28 GMT, 10 August 2012
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You wouldn't blame Tom Daley if, before he headed to the Aquatics Centre on Saturday for the semi-final and final of the 10m platform, he took a few minutes to relax, close his eyes and remind himself that the impossible is possible.
He could recall the 2009 World Diving Championships in Rome, for example. Going into the sixth and final dive, a then 15-year-old Daley trailed Chinese pair Qiu Bo and Zhou Luxin.
But then the unthinkable happened – the Chinese cracked, Luxin slightly off with his timing and Bo's entry so bad that he was given 79 points by the judges, 21 fewer than Daley.
In with a shout Tom Daley will compete in the 10m platform diving semi-final and final on Saturday
The teenager from Plymouth became world champion. Now he needs hot favourite Bo to buckle under the pressure again in the 10m platform.
'If you hold your nerve and dive well and consistently then you are going to do well,' says Daley, whose preliminary round was last night.
'If you start worrying about what anyone else is doing and you start looking at other people, watching them, seeing what they are doing, then that is when it can start going wrong.
'Different divers handle pressure in different ways. I quite like pressure and it gives me that extra adrenaline and will to do it, but then the Chinese have been known not to do so well under pressure.
'The problem is that they are normally so far ahead by the time it gets pressurised. If you keep on their tail then that is when they start feeling pressure, like Rome 2009.
'On the last dive I scored 10s and Bo dived after me and didn't do his dive very well.
Good enough Daley will need to beat the impressive Qiu Bo if he is to take the gold
'But you just don't know. All divers feel pressure. I feel pressure, the Germans feel pressure, the Americans.'
Daley's form suggests he should be able to put Bo – who, at 19, is a year older than the Englishman – under pressure.
In the four FINA World Series meetings this year, the Plymouth teenager has finished second three times and first once.
Bo beat Daley in two of the four at which he turned up but this is the Olympics and the pressure will be on, especially as China have won six of the seven diving gold medals so far.
Being world and junior Olympic champion and the winner of the test event earlier this year only adds to the expectation.
Even staying close to Bo and claiming a medal would be deemed a great achievement when you consider their different training regimes, something Daley addressed earlier this year.
And that is before you take into consideration Daley's agony at losing his father, Rob, to a brain tumour last year.
'Qiu is like a robot,' said Daley. 'I train five hours a day, six days a week, which is a lot.
Man to beat: 19-yearr-old Bo is technically outstanding, and Daley knows he must be top of his game if he is to beat him
He has been the past few months, though, and will have struggled to do anything else since last week's agonising fourth-place finish in the synchro event with Pete Waterfield.
He is armed with an improved front four-and-a-half-somersault dive, the hardest there is and one he hopes will put him on the podium.
'The crucial thing is the front four-and-ahalf,' he added. 'That's No 4 for me in my routine, but for some others it is No 2 or No 3. I am going to keep the dive order I've been doing all year.
'I am not gong to change it going into the Olympics as it is the first time I have done it. For me it is about going in there making sure I do three solid dives before the four-and-a-half and then the four-and-a-half is the icing on the cake.
'I am aiming to get over 100 points on it as there aren't many divers that can do it. I've gone over 100 points on it four or five times this year but, if I get above 90, that makes it worth using.
It's not all about China: Matthew Mitchum of Australia is also standing in Daley's way
'This year is the first year I have been comfortable with all my dives in competition.'
He will have to dive better than he did last night if he is to achieve that. After five of his six dives in the preliminary round, he was languishing in 16th place with only the top 18 qualifying for today's sem-final.
Another man standing between Daley and a medal is the current Olympic champion, Matthew Mitcham.
The Australian deserved huge praise for keeping the Chinese off the top of the podium in the event at their home Games in Beijing four years ago but he has struggled since.
Injuries have meant he has not made as much impact on the diving circuit as he would have wanted since 2008.
He is certainly determined to be noticed, though, criticising Daley for doing too much media work earlier this year, scaling the giant Olympic rings outside the Athletes' Village a few days before the Games and promising to dive naked off the 10m board if he successfully defends his title.
Daley's ever-increasing teenage fan base will be hoping he makes the same promise.