RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Tom Daley's Olympic gold bid ended in heartbreak on Saturday (Aug 20) as the Briton finished a shocking last in the 10 metres platform semi-finals dominated by Chinese duo Chen Aisen and Qiu Bo.
The 22-year-old Daley looked set to improve on his London 2012 bronze after finishing first in Friday's preliminary round ahead of the Chinese pair.
But Daley endured a rocky first three rounds at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre and after failing to pull back in the remaining three he finished last of the 18 competitors, with the top 12 advancing to Saturday's final.
"It's just really tough to think how well it went yesterday and if I'd just done that 24 hours later it could have been an Olympic gold medal around my neck, but instead it's the heartbreak," said Daley.
"I really don't have a reason. It doesn't get any lower than this.
"I'm kind of in shock right now because I know that I could win that gold medal and I think right now I'm the only one that could challenge the Chinese for that gold medal."
Diving last, Daley scored just 47.25 with his third dive and his 'firework' dive - a reverse three and a half somersaults with tuck - scored 91.80, seven points fewer than Friday.
Daley finished with a total of 403.25 points - 168.60 fewer than in the preliminary round, "The third-round dive, in particular, is the most frustrating because it's normally my best dive," said the dejected athlete.
"I was fighting until the end and (with) every single dive (I thought), 'Yes, I missed a dive; move on to the next one'.
"It came down to the last dive. I needed 9.5s and 10s to qualify and I know I can do that. I gave it my everything and tried my absolute best.
"I knew that these were going to be the Games where I could win." Chen, a gold medallist in the 10m synchronised platform in Rio, led with 559.90 points and Qiu, a bronze medallist in London 2012, was second with 504.70, to put China on course for a seventh gold of the diving competition.
China have won six of the seven completed events in Rio so far this week, with Jack Laugher and Chris Mears' win in the synchronised 3m springboard event the exception.
"Of course I'll watch. I love diving too much to not watch," said Daley.
"But it's going to be really tough to sit there, watching those guys up there, knowing that I really wanted to be up there challenging those Chinese for the gold medal."
American David Boudia, the London 2012 gold medallist, was 13th going into the final round, but advanced in 10th place.
Daley, a bronze medallist in the synchronised 10m platform in Rio, was already taking about a return for Tokyo 2020.
"It definitely does give me that big kick to come back in 2020. It's been my dream since I was a kid to be an Olympic champion."