It’s the solo event in which the diving superstar has long coveted the top prize, but despite leading at the halfway stage after three successive 90-plus points scores, he dipped below that standard of excellence with an 80.5 from his armstand back three somersaults with pike, which saw him slip off the pace.
This result hands Daley his third Olympic bronze and second in this specific discipline – in which he won his first gong at the Games at London 2012.
While Daley rallied in his last two dives, an overall score of 548.25 was only good enough for a third-place finish as Cao Yuan (582.35) took the gold medal, with Chinese compatriot Yang Jian (580.4) collecting silver.
Daley topping the podium alongside Matty Lee in the synchronised competition was one of the most enduring feel-good stories of Tokyo 2020 as he ended a 13-year wait for glory at the Games, but solo success continues to be elusive.
Daley, who has captured the imagination in the Japanese capital after being pictured knitting in the stands and even in between dives in the last couple of weeks, may reflect ruefully on his one sub-optimal dive.
But his bronze is Team GB's 60th medal at Tokyo 2020 – following Galal Yafai's boxing gold earlier today – with Britain’s athletes close to replicating the success of Rio 2016 (67 medals) and London 2012 (65).
After securing bronze at London 2012 and Rio 2016, and two medals at Tokyo 2020, that brings Daley’s Olympic medal total to four in three Olympic games - an impressive feat.
How did Daley reach the final?
Daley was not at his absolute best in the semi-finals, but managed to advance with only minor alarms.
A total points score of 207 at the halfway stage – after an underwhelming 54 from his third dive – left Daley ninth in the 18-strong field and, with only the top 12 progressing, he still had a bit of work to do.
He surprisingly bowed out of this stage at Rio 2016 but there would be no repeat as his forward four and a half somersaults with tuck was awarded 88.8 while his back three and a half somersaults with pike collected 93.6.
An overall haul of 462.9 was marginally better than the 453.7 he amassed in Friday’s preliminaries, where he also placed fourth.
Cao Yuan (513.7) came out on top in the semis, ahead of Chinese compatriot Yang Jian (480.85), with Aleksandr Bondar of the Russian Olympic Committee (464.1) the only other person ahead of Daley.
Daley has woven a feel-good Olympic story
The Plymouth-born diver has impressed onlookers with his expertise in an unlikely pursuit in recent days.
After being pictured knitting in the stands in Tokyo, he revealed a Team GB cardigan complete with the Japanese for “Tokyo” on its front, the Team GB and Olympics emblems across its back, and a Union flag on its sleeve.
He shared images of the patriotic apparel on TikTok and his Instagram account madewithlovebytomdaley – which is dedicated to knitting and crochet.
Daley’s knitting Instagram page had around 100,000 followers at the start of the week but now boasts almost one million after he caught the attention of the cameras at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre knitting his way through the diving events.
Among his other creations at the Games, Daley has also produced a knitted Union flag pouch for his gold medal – which he earned alongside 23-year-old Matty Lee.
Earlier this week, Daley joined a call for donations to fund a “groundbreaking” trial of a cannabis-based drug to treat an aggressive form of cancer.
The diver’s father Robert died aged 40 from a brain tumour in 2011.
The Brain Tumour Charity has launched an appeal to help raise £450,000 needed to fund the new three-year trial, which is due to begin recruiting some 232 patients at 15 hospitals across the UK early next year.
In a video to promote the trial, Daley said: “We are reaching out to all you individual heroes and supporters, to help fund this groundbreaking trial.
“When you donate, you’ll receive a link for your social media badge of honour. Join our community, spread the word and help us pave the way to beating brain tumours.”
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