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Magnificent Mears finishes London 2012 on a high
11:56am Tuesday 7th August 2012 in Sport
Chris Mears completed one of the most heart-warming stories of the London Games as his journey from near-death to Olympic finalist was realised this evening.
The 19-year-old from Southampton Diving Academy star was given just a five per cent chance of survival after he required life-saving surgery during a youth diving competition in Australia in January 2009.
Three years on, and again against all the odds, Mears qualified for this evening's three-metre springboard final.
He did so by smashing his lifetime best to score 461.00 in this morning's semi-final and leave his watching parents, Katy and Paul, in tears.
While he failed to reproduce the performance this evening, finishing ninth with a score of 439.75, it hardly mattered for a man who was ranked 48th in the world earlier this year.
Mears did fittingly end his competition on a high, becoming the first Briton to crack the century for a single dive, when he won nines for his hardest and final front four-and-a-half somersaults.
While the competition may be most remembered for Russia's Ilya Zakharov spectacularly ending China's bid for a clean sweep of the gold medals in the diving pool the emotion of a 17,500 home support for Mears was most palpable inside the Aquatics Centre.
He lost five pints of blood in the incident in Australia three years ago after requiring surgery to remove a ruptured spleen.
Following the operation he had further complications, suffering a seven-hour seizure before falling into a coma for three days.
His family made the frantic journey from around the globe to be at his bedside where, after a month in a Sydney hospital, he slowly made his recovery and began a remarkable journey that reached its climax tonight.
"I am so proud of him. He's incredible," Mears' mother, Katy, said after his semi-final this morning.
"The last three years he has had to crawl his way back and to get where he is now is amazing.
"I just can't believe it. We knew he had it in him, but for it all to go right at an Olympics is so unbelievable."
The Mears family had to be given tickets from British Swimming for the final, such was the surprise of their son's progress.
He said: "I enjoyed every second of that.
"I can't believe it from what I've come from to be here. Stood in front of a home crowd as well, it's just been phenomenal.
"I'd like to do it again. I wish there was a final, final to go to.
"I'm going to take away a lot from it. It's great experience hopefully for Rio."
Mears revealed he had no idea his 100-point haul was a first, but admitted he had wanted to end a dream Olympics on a high.
"I didn't know that, cool," said Mears, who was the only teenager in the final.
"It was a pretty way to end. I can't argue with that.
"I just used the home crowd. A couple of my dives before were not so good.
"I didn't want to let the crowd down so I really went for it on the start and gave myself the opportunity on the end and managed to bang a little finish on it.
"I'm pretty impressed actually."
Mears' father Paul ran with the Olympic torch last month in recognition of his role in his son's recovery and this morning his mother Katy recounted the night she received the phone call to say he was gravely ill.
"I got a call at one o'clock in the morning from the team doctor to say that Chris was ill but they thought it was sunstroke or something similar," she said.
"They said though I might want to think about flying which seemed extreme at the time.
"I put the phone down and thought we'll see what happens.
"I then got a phone call 30 minutes later and that was when the doctor revealed that Chris was going to need surgery. I asked if Chris was conscious and the doctor said he wasn't and that he was on a ventilator. That's when I went into panic mode.
"I started booking flights straight away and by nine o'clock we were on a flight to Australia.
"The doctor managed to call us before we flew to say he had survived the surgery which offered some reassurance.
"My husband got there before me because he was in Dubai at the time.
"The following morning I arrived and he was obviously alive but in intensive care and he remained in hospital for a month. We stayed with him that whole time.
"It was an extremely difficult time."
After Mears' lifetime best this morning Katy and Paul were pictured on the Aquatics Centre big screen in a tearful embrace.
"I did see them. They were going wild," Mears said this morning.
"I could hear them before every dive because they were the first ones to always shout and they always will be.
"It's fantastic, I'm so glad they are here.
"They've seen me at my lowest. That must have hurt them pretty badly, but I'm sure for them to see what I am doing now they're happy.
"That was the best performance of my life in front of a home crowd just when it mattered.
"Now I can say I'm an Olympic finalist."