By Greg Stutchbury
(Reuters) - Teenagers Tom Daley and Qiu Bo will carry the weight of expectation of two nations on their slim shoulders in the showcase 10-metres platform event, while China attempts to sweep all eight titles in the diving pool at the London Olympics.
Briton Daley burst onto the international scene as a cherubic-looking 13-year-old at the European championships in 2008, then as a 14-year-old Olympian at Beijing.
He won the 10-metres platform world title in 2009 in Rome when Qiu had a poor final dive and from that moment on, to paraphrase Lord Nelson, 'Britain expects' and he has been one of the faces of the London Olympics since.
That increased attention caused a furore earlier this year when Britain's high performance director Alexei Evangulov said Daley's media and sponsorship commitments were preventing him from fulfilling his potential.
Recent performances, including a defence of the European title, have changed the Russian's mind and he now believes Daley could challenge for gold in the showcase event.
Qiu, however, is already being touted as a future great of the sport after he claimed the individual and synchro titles at last year's world championships in Shanghai.
The 19-year-old, who also won the Olympics test events at the Aquatics Centre in February, also beat Daley in the World Series events in Dubai and Beijing, though the Briton is narrowing the gap, while Beijing Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham is the dark horse after recovering from injury.
"I've had a few injuries that have kept me from my best but ... I believe I can win gold again in London," Australia's Mitcham said. "I've done it before and know what it takes."
China's powerful team won seven of the eight medals on offer at the Beijing Olympics, all 10 events at Shanghai last year and all eight at the London test event, though Daley was confident they could be stopped on the day.
"The Chinese are very machine-like, they're the top diving nation," he told Reuters in June. "At the moment it's theirs to throw away but they don't like pressure so if you pile pressure on, you'll never know what might happen."
China's women, however, are likely to dominate the four titles on offer with Wu Minxia, who has never won an individual Olympics gold medal, the favourite for the three-metres springboard in her third Games and in the synchro event with partner He Zi.
The diminutive Chen Ruolin should be the diver to beat in the women's 10-metres events, having won both titles in Beijing, while she has also won three successive synchro world titles.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)