As Penny Mordaunt stood on the edge of the diving board in her sparkling red swimsuit, the audience fell silent.
This was the crowd that had only minutes before been singing, cheering, dancing and waving foam fingers around and now everyone was on the edge of their seats.
For not only was Penny about to dive from 7.5m up, she was backwards, standing on her toes with her heels over the water.
A small boy sitting behind me whispered to his mum ‘I think she’s going to fall’ and was promptly hushed.
The heartbeat that pumps over the tannoy moments before the contestants dive fell silent and the only noise that could be heard was the faint trickle of water in the pool’s filtration system.
A collective gasp went up as she gracefully jumped, arched and flew through the air.
Seconds later, a loud splash went up as she hit the water. From where I was sitting, straight on, it looked as if she had pulled it off. The Portsmouth North MP had attempted the hardest dive ever performed on ITV’s show Splash! and for a moment, it seemed like she had done it.
That was until the slow-motion replay came on the big screen and showed her dive from a different angle.
Unfortunately, Penny had overcooked it, meaning she had landed on her face, which must have hurt – a lot.
Not one to show weakness, she pulled herself together and put on her biggest smile to wait for the result. The judges recognised what a technically-difficult dive she had attempted and rewarded her bravery, scoring her a respectable 22.5 out of 30.
Penny was the third contestant to take the plunge, so we had to watch The Only Way is Essex star Dan Osborne and model Danielle Lloyd before the results were announced.
Comedian Patrick Monahan and singer Paul Young had gone before.
The public voted on who they wanted to automatically go to the final and hunk-in-sparkly-leopard-print-trunks Dan won the public’s heart. Along with his gorgeous smile, tanned body and smooth charm, his diving wasn’t bad either.
Down to four contestants, Paul and Patrick were quickly eliminated and the girls were picked to battle it out.
Moments later and Penny, who had taken a great slap to the front from the water during the first dive, was back up on the 7.5m board.
Could she pull it off this time?
The cheering died down and once again you could sense the crowd’s collective willing. A couple of graceful practice jumps at the top of the board and the audience’s hearts were back in their mouths.
Once again, she flew threw the air and this time an even larger splash came up from the water with a loud smacking sound. A wince and an ‘ooohhh’ went up from the crowd, followed by delayed applause.
The cameras were whisked away and the focus was on Danielle, to allow Penny the time to swim slowly to the edge and clamber out.
But did this absolute stalwart of fierce pride and determination show any signs of pain once out? No way.
Most people would have been crying in agony at taking two huge slaps from such a height but Penny put on her bravest face and smiled. She was on a mission. Sadly, Penny’s efforts didn’t pay off and the judges put Danielle through, leaving Penny bruised but happy she had achieved what she had set out to do – raise the profile of the Hilsea Lido and help its restoration.
The other contestants were full of admiration for Penny’s attempt at such a daring dive.
Overall winner Dan Osborne, left, said: ‘It was such a difficult dive, it was unfortunate. Sometimes nerves get the better of you and you want to rush it and then you overspin. In rehearsals she did it amazingly.’
Danielle Lloyd, right, said: ‘I’m still in total shock about going through, being up against Penny, who did such an amazing dive, I was quite lucky that it didn’t go so well for her, otherwise I would’ve been going home. I’m so proud of her, she’s done so well.’
Paul Young said: ‘I have seen Penny do that dive, so I know she could’ve done it. It was such a shame that nerves got the better of her. She gave it her everything.’
Patrick Monahan said: ‘I felt for Penny. It was bad enough doing it once, let alone doing it a second time. She had done it perfectly in rehearsals. On the night it’s totally different, there’s the audience, the viewers at home and the cameras. It was the pressure.’
WHEN presenters Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay told the crowd that Penny Mordaunt was about to do the hardest dive that had ever been attempted on Splash! there was one person in particular whose heart skipped a beat.
Penny was being cheered on from the audience by her family, including her twin brother James.
‘I just wish she wasn’t so ballsy sometimes,’ said James. ‘She’s so tremendously brave in everything she does. It amazes me.’
Also in the audience were Penny’s dad and stepmother John and Sylvia, Penny’s partner Ian Lyon and his 15-year-old daughter Eleanor.
Ian said: ‘She is incredibly brave and very strong willed. She works incredibly hard and Tom Daley was right when he said she was the hardest-working contestant.
‘I have seen a lot of bruising in the process. I don’t know anybody else who would attempt such a brave thing.’
Penny’s osteopath Keith Gladson said she had suffered many injuries from pushing herself so hard, including severe bruising, rotator cuff strain, acromioclavicular joint and ligament injuries and wrist and thumb strain.
He said: ‘She is by far the bravest competitor that I have worked with — genuinely courageous.’
Penny’s diving coaches Bill Clark and Damian Ball were also so impressed by Penny’s efforts, they have vowed to come to opening of the Hilsea Lido in support