British gymnasts make history – but disappointment for Daley
A century after Britain's male gymnasts won their last Olympic medal – and 88 years after they even made the final – their 2012 successors last night secured what will be one of the most remarkable triumphs of the London Games by taking bronze.
In an extraordinary climax to the men's team event, the five men of the British team looked to have snatched second place after Japan suffered a poor final round.
But after Japan's successful appeal against the score of its pommel horse gymnast Kohei Uchimara lifted them into silver position, Team GB secured instead the bronze which nonetheless represents an unlikely victory.
South Korean fencer, Shin A-Lam, 25, took matters further last night and staged a sit-down protest for more than an hour after losing a controversial semi-final on a judges' ruling.
The British gymnasts – Louis Smith, a medal winner from Beijing, Max Whitlock, Dan Purvis, Kristian Thomas and Sam Oldham – equalled the performance of their predecessors in 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
The host nation's third medal of London 2012 was by some distance the highlight of a day which brought disappointment for divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield in the synchronised 10m platform event.
The pair, who were big medal hopes, had practised their fourth dive to the point of perfection. But, with the Prime Minister among thousands of expectant fans in the Aquatics Centre, it turned out to be the dive that cost them a podium finish.
Daley, the boy hero of Beijing 2008 who has become the 18-year-old pin up of Team GB 2012, and his partner Waterfield suffered the agony of sliding from first position after three of their six dives to finishing fourth – nine points behind the American bronze medallists. Chinese pair Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang took gold.
Last night, Ruta Meilutyte, a 15-year-old Lithuanian schoolgirl who attends Plymouth College with Daley sobbed as she became the first swimmer from her country to win a gold medal at the Olympics in the 100m breaststroke final. Her performance was even more impressive considering the start was delayed by a technical hitch that saw the starter's gun go off before he called "on your marks".
Daley and Waterfield were let down by what is usually considered to be the strongest of their dives, a reverse three and a half somersaults which had been performed to standing ovations in training. The pair entered the water in ragged fashion and their score of 71 points saw them plummet from first to fourth – a position they were unable to improve in the two subsequent rounds.
Daley, who lost his father Robert to cancer last May and had tweeted before the event that "today is the day" after what had been the toughest year of his life, said: "You miss one dive and you are gone. Seventy-one points in a competition like this, it is unheard of to finish fourth still.
"We needed just another nine points, which we normally can do, but it is the way sport goes. It's annoying but what can you do?"
Daley angrily dismissed an online critic afterwards who told him that "you let your dad down", the diver replying: "After giving it my all...you get idiots sending me this."
Disappointment for the pair, who along with cyclist Mark Cavendish had shouldered much of the burden of British medal expectations in the opening days of the Games, was balanced by a series of strong – even tearjerking – performances elsewhere for the host nation. Rowers Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins smashed the Olympic record in the double sculls by five seconds to reach the final of their event on Friday.
Grainger, 36, is now within touching distance of turning her three Olympic silver medals into a gold on her fourth attempt.
She said: "If we can contain the emotion and the excitement that Friday will bring, then the performance will come out. We're so close to it. The final needs to be the best race we have ever seen." Elsewhere, weightlifter Zoe Smith, 18, overcame tears to break the British record in the 56kg section by lifting 118kg – more than twice her bodyweight.
Success for Team GB also came with a regal flavour yesterday after Zara Phillips, watched by her mother Princess Anne and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, rode a faultless cross-country round in the equestrian eventing contest, leaving Britain in second place with a strong chance of a podium finish.
About 50,000 spectators poured into Greenwich Park to watch the Queen's granddaughter and the other British riders, including Tina Cook and Mary King, placed third and fourth respectively in the individual rankings.