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Brits to watch: Tom Daley

Diving superstar Tom Daley

By Ollie Williams

At 14 years of age, British diver Tom Daley's medal hopes are second to his incredible achievement in reaching the Olympics.

Daley is one of the youngest Summer Olympians ever to have competed for Britain, but a medal in Beijing is probably beyond the Devon schoolboy.

Backed to a fanatical degree by his father, Rob, Daley has beaten British and world divers twice his age to secure his Olympic place.

His intention will be to use Beijing as an experience, and a platform to success in front of a home crowd at London 2012.

FACTS & STATS

Born: 21 May 1994
Trains: Plymouth Diving Club
Career highlights: 10m platform European gold (2008) and British Championships gold (2008)
Personal best: 512 points

PATH TO THE PODIUM

2008 form: Daley goes into the Games with a world ranking of 19, and is in unprecedented form for his age. His gold medals at the British Championships and the Europeans in Eindhoven, plus two synchro titles with partner Blake Aldridge, show he can perform under intense pressure.

Profile: Tom Daley

Rivals: Daley's age and immense media profile have somewhat masked the very real gold-medal chance afforded to Pete Waterfield, fellow GB 10m platform diver, who is ranked fourth in the world. Germany's Sascha Klein is top ranked in the world and won the "Good Luck Beijing" event ahead of seventh-placed Daley. World champion Gleb Galperin has fallen below Daley in the rankings.

How he could win: Because Daley's rivals are all considerably older, they can generally jump further, and so often perform dives with a higher tariff (i.e. a higher degree of difficulty). But Daley can still do well by keeping it simple and pulling off easier dives with expert precision - which has been his strategy so far.

What he says: "An Olympic medal is the ultimate in anyone's career - and they only come round every four years. It's what you dream of, it's something I've always wanted - and I don't know what I'd do if it was to come true."

What you say: "I don't think we've had such sporting talent from Plymouth since Sharron Davies."
eatthefrog

Tom Daley in action
Daley is competing in the individual and synchro events
Sporting high: Gaining special permission to take part in the Youth Olympics Festival in Australia at the age of 12, despite the usual minimum age being 15. To coin a diving phrase, that proved Daley's springboard to success at senior level.

Sporting low: Setbacks have been few and far between, barring occasional off-days in competitions. "We were gutted but we're not robots and I just have to remember that," Daley told the Daily Mail after a sixth-place finish, with Blake Aldridge, in the European synchro finals.

In action: 11, 22 and 23 August
Daley and Aldridge go in the 10m synchro on 11 August, then Daley is back for the individual prelims on 22 August and - all being well - the grand finale a day later.

AWAY FROM DIVING

Life before sport: Tom has been diving since the age of seven, so he will have few memories of life before diving. He is still a student at Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth, and gets given homework to do while off competing abroad.

Hero worship: British Olympic role models Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and Sir Steve Redgrave are both namechecked on Daley's official Team GB page - "They are amazing Olympians and I really admire them," says Tom. He also uses Alexander Despatie, the Canadian diver who won gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games aged 13, as a frame of reference.

Tom Daley in action
Daley performed in the Beijing Water Cube when he secured his qualification
Most likely to: Hold on to his mascot after a competition, rather than go out celebrate. Tom says: "I do have a lucky orange monkey. He doesn't come up on the board with me, though - he sits on the poolside. I've always had him; I know he's probably not that lucky, but I don't want to jinx anything by leaving him behind."

Least likely to: Doubt himself. For a 14-year-old, Daley is the model of confidence in front of any number of television cameras, photographers and reporters. He lists R. Kelly's "The World's Greatest" as one of his favourite tunes - "That is one of my goals, so when I listen to this song it just makes me more determined to achieve that," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Father Rob on Tom: "I'm not a pushy parent, Tom enjoys what he does and I enjoy it too. I don't coach him, we talk about normal things. When we drive home he'll ask me why a truck has got eight wheels on it, or why the cows in that field are all facing the same way."




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Track cyclist is bidding to improve on his gold, silver and bronze in Athens


see also
Meet Tom Daley
25 Mar 08 |  Diving


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