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After heartbreak in Rio, Great Britain's Tom Daley vows to return even stronger

Great Britain Olympic Diving Tom Daley
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After heartbreak in Rio, Great Britain's Tom Daley vows to return even stronger

Things didn't quite turn out in Rio the way Tom Daley planned, but we haven't seen the last of the British diving icon

Tom Daley set a blistering pace in the men's individual 10m platform preliminary with a score that would have taken gold in the final of both the 2016 World Aquatics Championships and the 2012 London Olympics.

Tom Daley shines in 10m prelims; Boudia, Johnson, Qiu, Chen all advance

The top 18 competitors in the men's individual 10m platform event are moving on to Saturday morning's semifinal

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But things fell apart in the semifinal, where he missed three of his six dives for a last-place finish and an early exit that was one of the biggest diving storylines of the Olympic games.

Chen, Qiu strong but Daley eliminated in 10m semi; Boudia advances for USA

The top 12 divers in the men's 10m semifinal are moving on to final, where the last Rio diving medals will be decided

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For the 22-year-old veteran of three Olympic Games, the premature elimination will be tough to stomach, but it will also serve as an organic source of motivation for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

"Going into the last round I knew I needed 9.5s and 10s in order to qualify and I know I can do that because I've done it many times before," Daley told NBC's Kelli Stavast after the semifinal. "I gave it everything out there today and it's just hearbreaking to try and accept that I'm not going to get a shot to try and go for that gold medal.

"It's a life lesson learned," Daley said. "I don't want to ever feel this way again. Four years more of hard work and dedication and I'm going to come back in Tokyo even stronger."

Daley is a wildly popular figure in his country, and internationally, and he has a lot to do with the rising stock of Great Britain's diving program. Diving has been an Olympic sport since it was introduced in 1904, but British divers entered the 2016 Rio Games with just seven total medals. They'll leave Rio with another three, including their first gold thanks to up-and-comer Jack Laugher -- a high-flier one year Daley's junior -- and Chris Mears.

Prior to these Olympics, no Great Britain diver owned more than one medal. Now, Daley and Laugher have two apiece. And the future of competitive diving in Great Britain is bright, thanks in large part to Tom Daley.

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