Tom Daley of Britain wears headphones as he waits between dives during the Men's Synchronised 10m Platform preliminary round at the FINA Diving World Cup at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London February 23, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Tom Daley's mother Debbie clutched a red, white and blue Union Jack flag in the crowd as Britain's favourite diver gave his fans a taste of Olympic action to come at a World Cup competition on Thursday.
If in the end it was a disappointment for them, that was because the Chinese were again dominant at the test event with Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan taking the synchronised 10m platform gold while Daley and platform partner Peter Waterfield got their timing wrong and finished seventh.
Even so, there was no doubt who the main men were as far as the 3,000-strong crowd in the ripple-roofed Aquatics Centre were concerned.
Waves of applause, whistles and cheers echoed around the stiflingly humid poolside as Daley, the former world champion and 17-year-old 'poster boy' for the London Games, and Waterfield were introduced.
Flags were festooned on hoardings and waved in the stands, their upper reaches curtained off for a more intimate atmosphere.
"The first two optional dives, which are the harder two, we did really well and it was just one dive that we missed," said Daley, whose several sponsorship deals have made him a familiar face despite the average Briton knowing little of the intricacies of the sport.
"That's what happens with a sport like diving... It's an on-the-day sport. The Chinese obviously do well on most days. Today they have shown they are really up there.
"In the 10m synchro it's China's to throw away in the Olympics... you know they are going to be up in the gold unless something goes wrong."
The Chinese have won five out of five World Cup golds available so far and look a good bet to end the week with all of them. Mexico's Ivan Garcia and German Sanchez took Thursday's silver with Germany's Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein third.
The Britons have a secure place at their home Games in July but Thursday was Daley's competitive debut at the Aquatics Centre he had opened last July with a solitary plunge into what were then cold and untroubled waters.
The pool has warmed up since then and so has the heat on the teenager, who has tried to ease the burden of expectation on him ever since he became a world champion at the age of 15.
Facing a throng of reporters, Daley fended off questions about a disagreement between him and his Russian coach, who said last week that the diver was doing too much media work and the Chinese were training three times as hard.
"I know that I have been putting in all of the hours that I can, all of the training that we've been doing," he said.
"Obviously the preparation coming into this competition hasn't been great because my thumb was injured in December and through to January and Pete's had a few problems over the off-season too.
"But it's what happens on the day and unfortunately today was not my day."
In other ways, it was. Daley's father Rob, who died of brain cancer last May, always carried a flag to his son's competitions and Debbie made sure that tradition continued as her son stepped into the spotlight again.
"This is actually Tom's grandparents' flag," she said, clutching the colours. "This is good, it's been to all the places as well."