The 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona is beginning to heat up. Top of the bill is the men's 10m platform final, a competition that features the likes of Qiu Bo, David Boudia and Tom Daley.
As reported by the Washington Post, Olympic gold-medal winner Boudia holds a narrow lead after the semifinal stage. The American star opened proceedings at the Montjuic pool with a dive that received one perfect 10, and nothing lower than 9.0.
Although China's Qiu led through each of the preliminary rounds, the 20-year-old couldn't catch the older competitor heading into Sunday's much anticipated final. Boudia took the initiative through each of the semifinal's six rounds and ended the day with a score of 534.40.
Understandably, former Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson was excited about her countryman's performance:
Qiu—who admitted struggling with expectation back in 2012—failed to keep his early momentum progressing through the day. He finished sixth in the semifinal on 457.55, losing out to the likes of Ivan Garcia, Sascha Klein, Victor Minibaev and German Sanchez.
The Chinese diver has a short history of making mistakes on the big stage. At the 2009 championships in Rome Qiu botched his final entry into the water, handing a 15-year-old Tom Daley his first major medal. Although the pair remain fierce competitors, they both have demons to slay heading into the Barcelona finale.
While Qiu's problems nestle within his mind, Daley has a more obvious reason for concern. As reported by BBC Sport, the British diver has struggled with injury and a lack of motivation since securing Olympic Bronze at his home Olympic Games last year.
BBC Sport also confirms his preparation for Barcelona was hampered with a glandular problem, but as the Englishman heads towards another final, he has a more serious setback to overcome.
The Daily Mail reports Daley suffered a tricep injuring during training on Thursday, adding to his long list of unfortunate complaints. He was rushed off for medical treatment between rounds at the World Championships and posted a noticeably poor performance. Even so, trainer Andy Banks believes he can battle through the pain barrier to success, as per The Daily Mail:
The medical team are now bust with him, hopefully they can do a job with that so he can come back in a better place physically, and mentally because of that.
He is very good at that, very professional.
It was off the diving board, on the physio bed and try and prepare him for the next dive and try and get him through the prelim. He's through, that's the first thing.
We are starting over at zero again. He still managed 13th with diving slightly sub-standard and there is a lot left in there.
Daley finished the semifinal in seventh place with an overall score of 452.70. He remains well behind Boudia and the frontrunners, suggesting a top three finish is unlikely on this occasion. His added fitness problems provide divers such as Qiu with a huge boost heading into the final, with one of their main challengers effectively restricted.
Boudia's near faultless performance outlines him as the firm favourite in Spain. He remains 11.80 points ahead of Garcia in second and has showed consistency throughout the semifinal stage. The American has finished no lower than second throughout his last six dives and remained in first place after the last five of his attempts.
Most importantly, the 24-year-old is an experienced winner on the big stage. His Olympic gold proves he is able to quash the expectation of others for his own gain. With Qiu and Daley struggling on various levels, Boudia's chances of securing gold have improved dramatically.