BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Chinese divers were marvelous. Tom Daley was even better.
Banishing the memory of his Rio disappointment, the British diver captured his first individual medal at the world championships since 2009 with a thrilling victory over reigning Olympic champion Chen Aisen on Saturday.
Chen, diving just ahead of Daley, put the pressure on in the final round with a brilliant reverse 2½ somersaults with 2½ twists, barely making a ripple as he sliced through the water to receive four perfect 10s from the judges and nothing lower than a 9.5.
But Daley, facing away from the pool, launched himself off the tower for an equally dazzling back 3½ somersault pike. He released his legs, spotted the water and maneuvered his body into a perpendicular position for scores that matched Chen, including four 10s.
“Seeing Chen do his dive — I saw him in the water and thought, ‘Oh yeah, so that’s how you want to play. I’m here to play too,'” Daley said.
The winner led after all six rounds and finished with 590.95 points. Chen was next at 585.25, while his teammate Yang Jian settled for the bronze at 565.15.
Daley was one of the platform favorites at the Rio Olympics and led after the preliminaries. But he stunningly failed to advance to the final when he finished last out of 18 divers in the semifinals, with a score that was nearly 170 points worse that the prelims.
For good measure, Daley also captured a silver in the mixed 3-meter synchronized on the final day of diving.
“Considering everything that happened in Rio last year, not making the final, to come back now and win a silver and a gold all in one day is just, you know, I can’t quite believe it,” he said.
Chen threw down a towel in disgust when he realized Daley had pulled out the victory.
“When I saw my points after my last dive, I thought, ‘I did it, I’ve got first place, I’m the world champion,'” Chen said. “And then when Tom got exactly the same points as me, I thought, ‘Well, it’s a bit disappointing, but we all did our best.’ What I have to do now is improve myself even more and maybe get first place next time.”
China did earn two more gold medals Saturday, including its eighth diving title.
Li Zheng and Wang Han finished first in the mixed 3-meter synchro with 323.70 points. Daley teamed with Grace Reid to take the runner-up spot (308.04), while the bronze went to Jennifer Abel and Francois Imbeau-Dulac of Canada (297.72).
China again dominated the diving competition, finishing with 15 medals overall — three times as many as runner-up Russia — but came up short of its 10 gold medals in Kazan two years ago.
The Chinese also took a synchronized swimming gold in the women’s team free. Ukraine settled for silver and Japan claimed the bronze. Russia, which has won six synchro swimming golds at the championships, did not enter a team.
But Russia took the gold in the final synchro competition — its seventh in nine events at worlds — when Aleksandr Maltsev and Mikhaela Kalancha won the mixed duet free routine, a relatively new, non-Olympic event.
Italy’s Giorgio Minisini and Mariangela Perrupato claimed the silver ahead of Bill May and Kanako Kitao Spendlove, who claimed their second bronze of the event for the United States.
The sport known its hair gel, glittering uniforms and over-the-top pageantry will have a new moniker going forward. World governing body FINA voted to change its name to artistic swimming.
Associated Press Writer Ciaran Fahey contributed to this report.
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