Diving: uplifting story of Chris Mears might be continued in Budapest
It was not expected from him really, yet he and Jack Laugher clinched the first Olympic gold in diving in the history of Great Britain. Seven years after being between life and death in Australia where doctors estimated his chance of recovering from a severe disease is around 5%. He returned, pulled himself together and continued doing sport with more will power than ever before and it paid off. On his sickbed he found another path, as well: music became his passion, today he composes progressive electronic music and has DJ performances sometimes. He has become a true icon because of his achievements in sport as well as his character. After claiming gold at the Olympics and the European Championships he and Jack Laugher aim for victory at the World Championships.
Men’s 3m synchro springboard was the only event after which the Chinese anthem was not played at the award ceremony in Rio. The Chinese dominance was broken by Jack Laugher and Chris Mears (GB), moreover, title holder Chinese duet of Cao Yuan, Qin Kai finished only third after the American duet.
„After all I have been through it was enough for me that I could be there in London. It was great and I was absolutely content. This time things are different, we have been dreaming about clinching gold. Now that we have won, well, it is unbelievable really...” – 24-year-old member of the first ranked duet, Chris Mears told BBC in Rio.
Silver medallist in 3m solo, Laugher pointed out the Olympic gold was special for him because he clinched it with his best friend. Chris and Jack have been preparing together since 2013, they have achieved their almost excellent level in the diving workshop of Leeds. (Our previous article on Jack Laugher is available here.)
Why did the audience get emotional about the guys claiming gold? What is the story behind the 20 cm scar under Chris Mears’ chest? Is it true that the story of the guy from Reading is like a fairy-tale? It is, indeed.
Chris Mears was 3 when his mom died from breast cancer. His charming step mother, Katy treated him as her own son, she guided him, and she was the one who encouraged him to take up sport in agreement with his father, Paul.
He was a highly energetic kid jumping up and down in the family’s house so they had to do something about his surplus energy. Katy Mears intended to enrol her son in gymnastics first, however, there was no vacancy at the training so they had no other choice but diving. He started this sport in Albatross Diving Club in Reading (his first coach used to call him „little frog”, what a surprise…), then he continued in Southampton Diving Club, he attended junior tournaments as a delegate of this club.
Then suddenly it all changed…
Aged 15 he was about to enter a junior tournament, namely the European Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney. After a training he started to feel weak and powerless. First they thought he had sunstroke, then a few symptoms occurred which suggested it might be meningitis.
Soon it turned out that the situation was way more devastating: it was glandular fever caused by Epstein-Barr virus. The peculiarity of this viral infection is that it does not have any symptoms yet it may cause liver and spleen enlargement. It happened in the case of Chris Mears, too: his spleen got bigger and bigger, because of repeated dives the situation worsened (unnoticed) until his spleen cracked. He lost two litres of blood which accumulated in the abdomen. Doctors at Royal Alfred Hospital in Sydney kept him alive by various medical interventions, the number of platelets in his blood dropped dramatically. As Chris Mears recalled, doctors told his family honestly that the platelet concentration of the last patient diagnosed with a similar disease (and could recover) was 25 units, whereas in Mears’ case it was only 2...
His chances of surviving were estimated about 5%.
Chris Mears stayed in Australia for weeks, after a while he was released from hospital and stayed in a hotel. One day his parents arrived and found him lying on the floor. He had an almost eight-hour-long seizure after which he was in coma for three days.
18 months later Chris Mears entered the Commonwealth Games…
Re-planning and a different path
„A lot has changed, I have changed a lot, too, mostly in a positive direction” – he told about this critical period.
„Music has found me and it helped me a great deal to overcome hardships. Every day I learnt something new, I played the guitar on my bed in hospital. Music energized me, turned me on, kept me alive. It felt like finding my true self. I put passion, time and energy into it, days went by but I never lost interest in music. It was like a wave I rode. I went with the flow. Music is another path I can take to express myself” – he summarised regarding the recovery period in England and factors which helped him get over it.
He makes music, works as a DJ of electronic and house music. He made a performance at Woodstock Festival in 203, in 2014 he came out with a medley of three songs, then in 2015 Universal Music launched his single called Mexico.
He and Nicole Scherzinger are at the same agency and he has plenty of plans for the future.
„Choosing between diving and music is out of question now. As long as I can do both, I will do them simultaneously. I never plan years ahead, I live for the moment” – said Chris Mears, and knowing his story we can totally understand this approach of his.
By the way, between dives he kept listening to the 6-song album by Canadian producer deadmau5 (originally called Joel Zimmermann) in Rio: „this music made me unstoppable, it inspired me a lot, made me unfold my true potential”.
Reach for the stars with new partner
In 2010 Chris Mears returned to the swimming pool, soon he became British champion with Nicholas Robinson-Baker, with whom he was placed fourth in India at the Commonwealth Games.
Entering London Olympics was quite uplifting for him, his duet finished 5th, while in solo he was ranked 9th, his last dive received the highest score at the entire event (100.70).
Prior to London Olympics his father, Paul had the privilege to carry the Olympic flame: he was chosen for his unconditional care and support by the sickbed of his son, even in the toughest periods.
Mears changed partners in 2013, since then he has been working with Jack Laugher, however, they could not make it to the World Championships the same year. In 2014 he transferred to Leeds permanently, John Charles Centre is one of the most renowned British workshops. The duet clinched its first medal, a bronze in May, 2014 at the FINA Diving World Series in Moscow.
The first gold was claimed at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, then in Kazan they won a bronze behind Chinese duet Cao Yuan/Qin Kai and the Russian one with Evgeny Kuznetsov/Ilya Zakarov.
Then came the „golden” year. In 2016 they became European champions in London, then the two friends wrote history at the Olympics (by the way, their parents are friends, too, the two families are really close).
They may continue to write sports history in Budapest, also, since Jack Laugher and Chris Mears are preparing for their first World Champs title at the 17th FINA World Championships.
British diving team at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest:
Jack Laugher, Chris Mears, Ross Haslam, Grace Reid, Katherine Torrance, Tom Daley, Daniel Goodfellow, Tonia Couch, Lois Toulson, Robyn Birch, Matty Lee, James Heatly
He was born on 7 February, 1993 in Reading. He is an athlete of the City of Leeds Diving Club.
Synchro partner: Nicholas Robinson-Baker (-2013), Jack Laugher (2013-)
Remarkable achievements: Olympic champion (2016, Rio de Janeiro), World Champs bronze medallist (2015, Kazan), European champion (2016, London), Commonwealth Games gold medallist (Glasgow, 2014)