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Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 12:42 UK

Tom Daley's life less ordinary

13th FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Date: 17 July - 2 August Venue: Foro Italico, Rome
Coverage: Daley and Brick in the 10m synchro live, BBC2/online on Saturday 25 July 1200-1330 BST

Rob and Tom Daley

Dad causes blushes for gold-winner Daley

By Caroline Cheese

There aren't many things about Tom Daley's life that the average Joe can relate to.

At the age of 15, Daley is the world and European 10m platform diving champion, he has competed at the Olympics and has even presented a Bafta award.

However, the look of excruciating embarrassment on his face as his tearful father burst into a news conference on Tuesday and demanded a "cuddle" from the new world champion will be familiar to all.

"Yeah, it was quite embarrassing," he told BBC 5 Live on Wednesday morning.

"I could just see him at the back, I could see him starting to cry, and I was like 'Oh dad… what are you doing?'"

Daley's reaction is a reminder that he is, despite everything he has achieved, a typical teenager at heart.

Just hours earlier, he had coolly out-performed the world's best divers on his World Championships debut in Rome.

Tom Daley

Daley 'shocked' after winning gold

His final score of 539.85 would have been enough to win him gold at the 2008 Olympics.

And while Daley, lying third heading into his final dive, scored three perfect 10s and three 9.5s for his last effort, the Olympic gold medallist and the world junior champion all made mistakes at the crucial moment.

"It's something you have to cope with, pressure. I normally respond well to it," he said.

"If I see someone do a good dive, I want to do a better one.

"That's what you need to have in a competition if you want to win the gold medals."

Daley's performance, which made him the youngest platform world champion in history, means he can expect to find another sackload of fan mail when he returns home to Plymouth.

The teenager was a huge hit with Chinese schoolgirls when he made his Olympic debut in Beijing last year and continues to receive messages on a daily basis from all around the world.

The Miami Herald newspaper recently described him as "Britain's answer to the Jonas Brothers - a parent-friendly safe tween-idol whose posters adorn the walls of young girls' bedrooms all over the land".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a congratulatory statement on Tuesday, hailing Daley as an "inspiration to all those involved in British sport and to young people right across the country".

I'm still on the moon. You wouldn't believe how happy I am, how proud I am

Tom's father Rob Daley

But not everyone has bought into the Daley dream.

On his return from Beijing, Daley found that some of his schoolmates were not all that happy to have a star in their midst.

"Everyone started being stupid and calling me names, throwing bits of paper, tipping my pencil case out in front of the whole class," he said.

"They were calling me 'diver boy' and saying 'how much are your legs worth? I'll break them'. Stupid threats really.

"It didn't really get to me but after eight months of the whole school doing it, it just got a little bit annoying."

He has since enrolled at a public school, which has a history of helping elite athletes combine their education with their training.

Daley's Olympic debut was hardly plain sailing either.

After finishing last in the synchronised event with Blake Aldridge, a row erupted with Daley accusing his partner of phoning his mother halfway through the competition and Aldridge blaming the teenager for allowing nerves to get to him.

Their partnership came to an abrupt end in February when Aldridge had to pull out of the national championships after being assaulted in a nightclub.

As he did when the bullying began to upset Tom, it was his father Rob who stepped in to deal with the situation.

"As a parent, we have a duty to look after our kids, make sure everything goes right for them, goes as smooth as possible," he told BBC 5 Live.

606: DEBATE

"I've allowed Tom to focus on what he loves doing - and it's paid off."

That includes keeping his 2006 diagnosis with a brain tumour a secret.

When he came home the day before his operation - which was a success - with his head shaved, Daley senior told Tom and his two younger brothers that he had done it for charity.

Rob did not return to work after his illness, and now devotes all his time to ferrying his son to training and competitions, as well as dealing with the ever increasing press interest in the Daley phenomenon.

You can forgive him, then, if he refuses to apologise for embarrassing his son.

"I don't care. I'm still on the moon," he said.

"You wouldn't believe how happy I am, how proud I am. All the hard work, it's been such a long journey, but oh my goodness, it's been so well worth it."

The journey is now set to take Tom to the London Olympics, when a gold medal is expected from the 2012 poster boy.

By that time he will be 18, and hugs from his Dad will definitely not be tolerated.



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see also
Daley dreams of gold in London
22 Jul 09 |  Diving
Mother's pride in dive champ son
22 Jul 09 |  Devon
Daley wins historic World title
21 Jul 09 |  Diving
Daley deals with growing pains
19 Jul 09 |  Diving
Dive star moves to public school
02 Jun 09 |  Devon
Brilliant Daley wins Florida gold
10 May 09 |  Diving
Dive star Daley bullied at school
23 Apr 09 |  Devon
Olympic champion hails GB's Daley
16 Apr 09 |  Swimming
Father eyes new partner for Daley
07 Apr 09 |  Olympics
Olympic diver 'assaulted' at club
05 Feb 09 |  Olympics
Daley smooths over Aldridge rift
23 Jan 09 |  Olympics
Daley seventh as Mitcham triumphs
23 Aug 08 |  Diving
Aldridge blames Daley for failure
11 Aug 08 |  Diving
Teen Daley qualifies for Olympics
24 Feb 08 |  Diving


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