Chris Mears: From near death to Olympic glory, how the diver is inspiring others ahead of his Commonwealth Games bid

“My dad can’t talk about that, he gets so choked up,” says Olympic diving champion Chris Mears. The 25-year-old Briton is remembering the day nine years ago, at the Sydney Youth Games, when the force of a somersault into the pool ruptured his spleen, causing his insides to haemorrhage blood until he collapsed. Over 7,000 miles away, while working in Dubai, his father received a shattering phone call explaining his son had only hours to live.

“My dad basically thought he was getting on a flight to take my body back,” says Mears. “In hospital I was given a five per cent chance to live because I’d lost so much blood and no one knew what the hell was going on. When I went into theatre there was almost no hope. I remember bits and pieces, but most of it was Australian people shouting ‘This guy’s gonna die!’ I thought it was the end, 100 per cent.”

After emergency surgery to remove his spleen and four days in intensive care, Mears seemed to have made a miraculous recovery. Then, two weeks later, his family found him in his hotel room suffering a convulsive fit which lasted six hours, until he was put into an induced coma. “My parents don’t talk about that much because it’s quite a sensitive subject, but I think they expected me to have brain damage.” Somehow, again, he survived and defied the medical predictions.

It has been an extraordinary nine-year journey from a Sydney hospital to this point, as he and diving partner Jack Laugher prepare to defend their 3m synchronised Commonwealth title on the Gold Coast on Friday. His brush with death made Mears want to take diving more seriously, but for the next two years a month wouldn’t pass without him falling seriously ill. “I was training so hard and I shouldn’t have been,” he admits. “I didn’t like being told no. My body was weak and I was constantly getting viruses.”

He started to manage his workload and slowly became “in tune” his body, knowing when to push himself and when to take a rest. He moved to Leeds to train alongside Laugher, while weaning himself off medication against doctors’ initial advice, and together they have conquered the discipline; 2014 Commonwealth champions in Glasgow, 2016 European champions in London and then the pinnacle, Olympic champions in Rio – winning a gold medal which now lives in Mears’ sock draw.

Mears remembers standing on the podium in the Rio Aquatic Centre as an almost spiritual experience, the satisfying culmination of years battling adversity, and it gave him strength as he reflected on another defining moment in his life, the death of his mother when he was only three years old. 

“I was on the podium trying to come to terms with the fact that I’d just won 20 minutes ago. I stood there with my best mate beside me, I had my family nearby on the left of me – my dad my step-mum, my brother, my sister – and then I felt my mum above me. I had a medal around my neck, and it was just an amazing feeling. I felt so lucky, I don’t know how to explain it. That was it, the best thing ever.

“I definitely think I made her proud, and I made my step-mum proud, because she’s been a huge part of my diving success. She was the one who drove me to training for 10 years, so she deserves a medal for that.”

Chris Mears

Mears has taken the pressure off himself ahead of these Games, happy just to be healthy and competing, and it is that sense of fortune and humility which pushed him to join the Chase Your Dream, No Matter What campaign, in which he helped to inspire others who have struggled with anxiety and emotional distress by sharing his story and the reality of his darker moments – and encouraged them to face their fear by jumping off the quite terrifying 10m board.

“It was really emotional but also it was personal to me,” he says. ”Firstly because I’ve suffered with those sorts of things, and secondly because I got such a buzz out of helping someone else with their fears and their anxiety.”

Mears enjoys another outlet outside diving, working as a music producer, which he hopes will eventually replace sport as his full-time job and passion. He has already enjoyed great early success, working on projects in Los Angeles and performing live in front of thousands.

Now, though, his focus is on the Commonwealths, and adding another chapter to a remarkable story of perseverance in the face of adversity, in the country where his life was impacted so dramatically nearly a decade ago.

“I do think about it,” he says. ”Everything happened for a reason. It built me, it made me who I am, so all of my experiences led to that [Olympic gold]. I don’t believe I would have even been an Olympian if I didn’t go through that in Australia. I was a bit immature and that experienced matured me. It made me realised I wanted to do something with my life.”

Chris is an ambassador for Chase Your Dream, No Matter What, Bridgestone’s Worldwide Olympic partnership campaign in the UK. To find out more visit:

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If we want to tackle antisemitism in the modern world, then we need make GCSE History a compulsory subject in schools

It is time to rethink how we teach our children about the Holocaust.

Ivor Perl was just 12-years-old when he arrived in Auschwitz. Since he first spoke about his experiences in the mid-1990s, Perl has been active in promoting the memory of what happened to Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust across schools in the UK. Now he feels that there is no point in continuing to speak about his life.

Perl says that he feels the gulf of understanding between the school children he talks to is too wide for him to bridge. The pupils he encounters have such a poor understanding of what happened during the Second World War that his words fall on deaf ears.

This is certainly not his fault. Perl is an engaging and thoughtful speaker. He remembers the Holocaust through a child’s eyes when he relates his story. As he recalls the deportation, he recounts his childish excitement of riding on a train for the first time. He excitedly peeked through the cracks in the floorboards of the carriage watching the tracks pass by, unaware of the horrors that lay ahead.

But it is not the children’s fault either if they stare back at Perl in disbelief and incomprehension. If you are not told the facts, it is impossible to know what to ask or to understand what you are being told. We have failed to teach them what they need to know.

Holocaust education is a mandatory part of the history curriculum at KS3 only. It is only compulsory in state schools in England – private schools are exempt. It centres on an understanding of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. It often focuses on references to the Kindertransport when 10,000 Jewish refugee children were brought to the UK in the months before the Second World War.

Focussing on this is an approach that Perl finds is far too narrow. He was born and brought up in the small town of Mako in southern Hungary and he and his brother were the only survivors of a family of nine children. 

He is frustrated that he is always asked if he hates Germans. “The answer is no, I do not,” he says. “Why should I hate Germans any more than the Hungarian children who I used to play football with as a child? They were the ones who herded us into the ghetto with sticks.”

“In the UK children don’t understand that antisemitism was a Europe-wide phenomenon,” he says. “It is about man’s inhumanity to man and a story of how neighbour can kill neighbour.” He feels that the reason the Holocaust can feel distant and irrelevant in the 21st century classroom is that its true nature is not explained.

“I am brought in for 45 minutes. It is impossible for me to explain the intricacies of what happened in such a short time,” he says. More significantly the children think he is talking about remote far-away places that have little relevance to them.

The history of the 1930s in Europe is undoubtedly complicated and, if history was a compulsory subject until the age of 16, it would help matters. The story of the Holocaust is no more complicated than the politics of Indian independence that dominated the syllabus my children were taught for GCSE.

Even at KS3 there are improvements that could be made. Let’s encourage a questioning of the accepted myths that surround the Kindertransport. If teachers pointed out that the British did not welcome the most vulnerable people in the world with open arms, it would be a start.

It needs to be said that there was considerable opposition to granting the children visas, which were temporary, and that they were only allowed into the UK as long as their care did not cost the taxpayer a penny. We also need to encourage our pupils to ask why the parents of the Kindertransport children were not allowed to come too. An empty plinth next to the Kindertransport monument at Liverpool St Station might do the trick.

It is too often fear of upsetting our children and cosseting them from harsh realities that limits their understanding. 85-year-old Perl is well aware of the upset that can be caused by the details of his experiences in Auschwitz and Dachau. 

When he wrote his memoirs for his children and grandchildren, he tells me he was careful not to be too graphic in his description, in order not to cause unnecessary upset. Unsurprisingly, Perl was horrified after one session in a school when mother complained that he had traumatised her sixteen-year-old daughter with his account. “I was years younger than her when I lived through the horrors and she didn’t even hear the full details.”

In the current climate it is time for some plain speaking. With antisemitism on the rise we need to make sure that our children are armed with the facts, however upsetting.

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Trump Tower fire: Hotel in Azerbaijan capital Baku ablaze just weeks after deadly inferno at New York building

Firefighters are reportedly battling a blaze at the unfinished Trump International Hotel and Tower in Azerbaijani capital Baku.

The Azadliq newspaper reported that the fire broke out on the middle floors of the 33-storey building and was spreading, with six units of firefighters at the scene.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, following an apartment fire at Trump Tower in New York that left a prominent art dealer dead and four firefighters injured earlier this month.

The blaze came a day before Lewis Hamilton and other F1 drivers race the Baku city circuit in the Grand Prix.

Development was started on the Trump International Hotel and Tower Baku a decade ago but it has never opened.

Originally planned as a luxury apartment building by local developers, the project was taken over by the future US President’s company in 2012.

The Trump Organisation announced that a hotel will occupy the first 13 floors, with flats on the storeys above.

Following Mr Trump’s election, there was controversy over affiliation between the company that owned the project, Baku XXI Century, and a local family associated with corruption.

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Liverpool vs Stoke City LIVE: Where can I watch it, what time is kick off, channel, team news, odds, preview

Stoke City could be relegated to the Championship this weekend as they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool.

The Reds will be riding the crest of their glorious win over Roma in mid-week that more than likely secured their place in the Champions League final. Jurgen Klopp’s men could make sure of their position in the Premier League top four with a victory over the struggling Potters.

However, Paul Lambert will be keen to cut the gap to 17th placed Swansea City with a shock victory at Anfield. The Potters are currently four points adrift of safety with only three games of the season left to play. A defeat for Stoke and victory for Swansea over Chelsea will see the Potters relegated.

Follow all the live action below…

Live Updates

9 mins ago

Virgil van Dijk arrives at Anfield prior to kick-off

Please allow a moment for the blog to load…

What time is it?

The game kicks off at 12:30pm on Saturday.

Where can I see it?

The game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Premier League, Sky 1 and Sky Sports Main Event with coverage set to begin at 11:30am.

It’s a big game for…

Stoke. They could potentially slip into the Championship with a loss at Anfield. A defeat, coupled with results going against them could see Lambert’s men slip seven points away from safety, a mountain that would be impossible to climb with only two games left.

A win would keep them in touching distance of safety however and would give them a great chance of staying up with matches against Crystal Palace and Swansea City to come in the final two weeks.

The best stat…

The scoreline in this particular fixture has ended 4-1 on the last two occasions it has been played. Last season, goals from Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and a Giannelli Imbula own-goal saw the Reds claim victory after Jonathan Walters had given Stoke the lead.

Player to watch…

Mo Salah, yet again. The Egyptian again played a starring role for Liverpool against Roma. Against his former club, the winger scored two stunning strikes and provided two in an eye-catching 5-2 victory.

The 25-year-old has racked up super-human numbers this season, on par with the likes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

He should have a field day against Stoke who possess the worst defence in the Premier League.

Form guide…

Liverpool: WDWWDW (all comps)

Stoke City: LLLLDD


Liverpool: 3/10

Stoke: 11/1

Draw: 11/2

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North Korea hails 'a new era of peace' after historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in

North Korean state media has hailed the historic summit with the South as a turning point in relations between the neighbouring nations.

The North’s KCNA news agency said its leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in had pledged to work towards “complete denuclearisation” on the peninsula in talks on Friday.

In a break from its usual protocols, KCNA lauded the negotiations between Mr Kim and Mr Moon, reporting reporting the pair had promised a “fresh start” in North-South relations and enjoyed dinner in an “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives.”

The meeting, the first involving a North Korean leader on the southern side of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), saw the two nations agree to formally end the Korean War, 68 years after the conflict broke out.

“At the talks both sides had a candid and open-hearted exchange of views on the matters of mutual concern including the issues of improving the north-south relations, ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” the state-owned agency said.

“Kim Jong Un said that the meeting at such special place would mark an occasion of giving once again hope and dream for the future to all people.

“He said he felt once again the national mission and duty to usher in a new era of peace and reunification after putting an end to the history of division and confrontation and that he came today with the thought that he would fire a signal flare at the starting line writing a new history.”

In the South, media replayed striking scenes of the two leaders meeting at the border, while the North’s main state newspaper published a multi-page spread with photos from the visit.

However, despite a warming in the fractious relationship between the two Koreas, the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Mr Kim and Mr Moon did not address questions over whether Pyongyang was willing to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Most of the specific commitments outlined in the official declaration focused on inter-Korean relations, prompting guarded but optimistic praise from world leaders.

US President Donald Trump said that only time would tell whether peace could be achieved on the peninsula, but that he did not think Kim was “playing.”

“It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal … We are going to hopefully make a deal,” he told reporters.

Mr Trump added he would maintain pressure on the North not to “repeat the mistakes of past administrations.”

An editorial in the official China Daily on Saturday said denuclearisation could end hostilities between the two sides and “usher in a new era of development” on the peninsula, but noted Friday’s declaration lacked a plan for achieving the goal.

“The denuclearisation of the peninsula, written into the Panmunjom Declaration, is only a prospect with no specific plan. 

“That is because such specifics can be reached only between the US and North Korea, and South Korea has only limited authority to bargain,” it said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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Palestinian teenager dies after being shot by Israeli troops near Gaza border

A 15-year-old Palestinian youth died on Saturday after being shot the previous day by Israeli troops during protests along the Gaza border, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians since Gaza residents began staging protests along the border fence on March 30. The demonstrators are pressing for a right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.

The Palestinians say Israel is using excessive force against the protesters, 2,000 of whom have been wounded by gunfire.

Israel’s use of live fire has drawn international criticism.

Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling stones and rolling burning tyres, come too close to the border fence.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Friday called the loss of life deplorable and said a “staggering number” of injuries had been caused by live ammunition.

The Gaza Health Ministry said apart from the Palestinian teenager, three other Palestinians were killed on Friday and 200 wounded by gunfire. The Israeli military said about 14,000 Gazans had been participating in what it described as “riots,” and that some had tried to breach the frontier.

Gaza is run by the Islamist Hamas movement, which Israel and the West designate a terrorist organisation. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the enclave in 2005 but, citing security concerns, maintains tight control over its land and sea borders. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza.

More than 2 million people are packed into the narrow coastal enclave, where poverty and unemployment rates are high. The protests come at a time of growing frustration for Palestinians as prospects for an independent state look poor.

U.S.-led peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014. Efforts by the Trump administration to revive negotiations have shown no sign of progress.

Dubbed the “Great March of Return“, the protest action is to continue until May 15 when, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says, the Gaza demonstrations will be replicated elsewhere along Israel’s frontiers.

May 15 is the date the Palestinians mark as the “Naqba”, or “Catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes during violence in the 1948-49 war between the newly-created state of Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Israel refuses any right of return, fearing that the country would lose its Jewish majority.


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City worker posted pictures of young intern on porn sites after she turned him down

A City work who posted pictures of an intern to porn websites in a “calculated and malicious” campaign of harassment is expected to be jailed.

Davide Buccheri, 25, launched his “perverted” attack on the young woman’s reputation after she rejected his romantic advances while working at M&G investment firm.

He took photos of the victim, who was a university student at the time, from social media and uploaded them alongside pornographic images and then reported the page to the company’s human resources department in a bid to stop her getting a permanent role.

Buccheri, of Bologna, Italy, was convicted at Westminster Magistrates Court on Friday of harassment between September 2016 and May 2017 and taken into custody for sentencing on Tuesday.

Police said this should serve as a warning to individuals seeking to commit crimes online that they would not go unpunished.

District Judge Richard Blake described Buccheri as “manipulative” and “obsessed”, and said he had “set about to destroy his victim” and it was “almost inevitable” that he would face a custodial sentence.

“You conducted a quite wicked, calculated campaign against this young woman,” he said.

“It is shameful that I have not heard in evidence one expression of regret from you about what this young woman suffered.

“She is going to have to live the rest of her professional life with the potential for the snigger by the water cooler or in the lift as she goes by.

“She doesn’t deserve that, this young woman did absolutely nothing to bring about your disgraceful behaviour.

“You conducted a perverted campaign against her.”

Buccheri admitted he was “romantically interested” in the victim but denied uploading the photos of her and said he was only looking at the images because he was concerned about the reputation of the company.

Aimee Emby from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Not only did Buccheri’s actions cause this victim considerable distress and anxiety, his denial of guilt forced her to relive her ordeal.

“I hope this conviction provides the victim with some measure of comfort and gives other victims of harassment the confidence to come forward.”

Detective Inspector Gary Robinson, City of London Police cyber-crime unit, said: “Many perpetrators believe they will not get caught when committing crimes from the safety of their own home online,” he added.

“Today we have shown that it not the case.”

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Ryan Reynolds turned up as Deadpool to troll Hugh Jackman's birthday message

The pairing of Deadpool and Wolverine should have been a dream come true – it’s just a shame that fans are keen to banish X-Men: Origins from all memory.

A film which acted as a pretty extreme disservice to the Merc with a Mouth, partially by taking away that mouth altogether, so it’s no surprise that his 2016 solo film came as something of a revelation. 

Ever since then, fans have been dying to know when the two may reunite once more to rectify the sins of the past.

One slight issue: Hugh Jackman has officially retired from the role of Wolverine following last year’s Logan, clarifying that the decision is final enough that even Ryan Reynolds himself couldn’t tempt him to strap on the claws once more

The only silver lining to that news is that it clearly doesn’t extend to off-camera hijinks, with the duo engaging in a lengthy battle of trolling and pranks, including Reynolds crashing one of Jackman’s press junkets

The new chapter of which sees Jackman attempt to record a birthday message for an unknown individual, only for Reynolds, dressed as Deadpool, to interrupt with a rendition of “Tomorrow”, from the musical Annie, before transitioning into the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?”. 

​Deadpool 2 hits UK cinemas 15 May. 

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Igniting Fallujah: US killings of protesters in 2003 that signaled start of insurgency

The name Fallujah is mostly associated with two bloody battles fought for it by the US-led coalition in 2004 for the US public. Some may recall how the first battle was in response to an ambush of a convoy, in which US contractors from the private military company Blackwater were killed, their bodies desecrated and hanged from a bridge over the river Euphrates. Younger generations may recall that Fallujah was in the hands of the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) until yet another siege in 2006 forced them out.

Rewind to April 2003. George W Bush has already given his “mission accomplished” speech, the US-led coalition is busy giving the press updates on the number of captured former Saddam Hussein officials. Fallujah, a conservative and predominantly Sunni Muslim city some 50 kilometers west of Baghdad, sees an influx of American troops, who take over former government buildings and establish bases of operation.

READ MORE: ‘Desolate and deadly’: Weary Iraqis forced to return to ruined, booby-trapped areas (VIDEO)

The residents are naturally unhappy with the presence of armed foreigners. The US soldiers, rumors say, use their night goggles to spy on women, compromising their honor. They have dirty pictures and have been showing them to children.

Amid the tensions comes April 28, the birthday of the ousted Iraqi leader, who many residents of Fallujah still supported. Some celebrated the date – including by shooting in the air. Some simply went to evening prayers. In the evening, around 200 people gathered to protest the presence of US troops, first near the HQ of one of the units in the Nazzal neighborhood and later in front of the Al Qaed school, where the Americans set their camp a couple nights ago.

What happened next was later told differently by the sides. The Americans said the crowd had been infiltrated by instigators, who opened direct fire at US troops, and that the soldiers returned fire against those armed men. The Iraqis said the Americans started shooting first. Human Rights Watch believes the US troops were not equipped or trained to handle the situation in the first place, being regular combat soldiers.

On that night, the Americans killed 17 people and injured over 70. Less than 48 hours later, a crowd of 1,000 people marched down Fallujah’s main street, reaching the battalion headquarters and pelted the building and troops with shoes and stones. The Americans opened fire again, killing one man and injuring 15 others.

Years later, journalist Bobby Ghosh, who was covering Iraq for Time magazine, visited Fallujah. The April 2003 killings were fresh and vivid for the Iraqis. “For years afterward, militants I met cited ‘what the Americans did at the Fallujah school’ as the reason they joined the insurgency,” Ghosh wrote.

READ MORE: Fallujah 12 years on: Americans ‘last people to consider’ generations crippled by depleted uranium

Fifteen years from the start of the Iraq invasion, the cost in human life continues to mount. The killings in Fallujah were not even the first incident of this kind, but they are remembered as the first step in a long and bloody path that Iraq still walks today.

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UK Home Sec. Amber Rudd rejects calls to resign over deportation target scandal

Rudd has been accused of misleading Parliament over whether her department had targets for the removal of immigrants, and has faced increasing pressure to step down from MPs and the media for more than a week.

READ MORE: How has UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd managed to keep her job?

Rudd took to Twitter Friday night to say she intends to stay on to “ensure immigration policy in fair and humane.” She added that she’s sorry she wasn’t aware of “specific removal targets,” but admitted that “she should have been.”

In a four-part late night statement, the minister said she will address Parliament on the issue on Monday to answer “legitimate questions that have arisen on targets and illegal migration.”

Rudd had previously told MPs that the Home Office does not operate on deportation targets, before it was revealed last week in a leaked document that as recently as three years ago, the department did have targets for the removal of illegal migrants.

Rudd later admitted that the Home Office had been using local targets for “internal performance management.” 

The internal document discussing such targets had been copied to Rudd’s office. In her Twitter statement, Rudd claimed she didn’t see the leaked document, but admitted that it was copied to her office “as many documents are.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary respond to Rudd’s Twitter posts by issuing a fresh call for the minister to step down.

“She failed to read crucial documents which meant she wasn’t aware of the removal targets that have led to people’s lives being ruined,” Diane Abbott said in a statement. “Another apology is not enough, she should take responsibility for chaos in the Home Office and resign.”

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