The former world champion knows he needs to push the boundaries of his sport and spent most of last year battling to master his ‘demon’ dive, a dizzying combination of somersaults and twists he had hoped would prove the difference.
However, along with new coach Jane Figueiredo he spent the winter modifying a new plunge, something that has never been attempted before. Daley spent long hours on the trampoline perfecting technique before building the dive in stages from different heights.
It was painstaking and detailed work but the dive finally got its premiere at the British Championships and was part of Daley’s repertoire when he won silver, with a personal best score, at the recent World Diving Series in Dubai.
“There was a sense of relief when we decided to bin the old dive but the pressure was on to come up with something,” admitted Daley.
“The old dive did terrify me and while I did conquer my demons with it, it’s a weight off my shoulders that I’ve moved on because it was a bad dive for me.
“We wanted to do the least twist possible because I hate the twisting part. We’ve only got one twist in this dive so we had to decide whether we were going to do it at the beginning or at the end because you can do that dive three different ways.
“We tried doing it at the beginning but it made the dive really hard because the G-force getting into your pike shape is really difficult.
“We go through 20 Gs of force as we’re spinning around so at the end we decided to do it on the way out. So you spin as fast as you can and then you come out at the end, do one twist then land in the water.”
It’s six years since Daley won his breakthrough world title in Rome, one year after making his Olympic debut as a 14-year old in Beijing.
Last year there were inaccurate reports that Daley was to call time on his diving career but he insists he’s enjoying the sport more than ever, following the decision to relocate from Plymouth to London.
His home pool is now the Olympic pool, a place with happy memories, and he’ll be the star attraction at next month’s Fina Diving World Series, 1-3 May in his newly-adopted hometown.
But Daley is no longer the sole standard bearer for British diving, Jack Laugher became the first non-Chinese diver to win on the World Series this year in Dubai and Tonia Couch and synchro partner Sarah Barrow are also established among the world’s elite.
“I have never loved diving as much as I do now and I want to stay in diving for as long as I possibly can,” added Daley.
“With the move to London it has become exciting again. Especially with the new dive, there are new challenges and new obstacles to overcome.
“It’s been great having Jane on board, we’ve had a year and three months working together now.
“There’s little things that we’ve changed – the strength and conditioning, the way that we work in the pool, the way we work in the gym but it’s really working out.
“British diving is the strongest it’s ever been and we are all really excited about coming back to London and competing in our own pool.
“We know in London that we always get a crowd that’s loud. It’s normally a sell-out and the atmosphere is a bit more electric than anyone else, it gives you that extra adrenaline rush and, in theory, it should get us to dive a little bit better.”
But Daley’s key ambition for the season in this summer’s World Championships in Kazan. Since striking gold in Rome, he has settled for a fifth and sixth at the event, a record he concedes must change.
His rivals will be the normal suspects, reigning champion Qiu Bo, Olympic champion David Boudia and Germany’s Sascha Klein.
“The build up to Rio is going pretty well,” he added. “It’s got a lot of competitions leading up to it and the worlds will be our first chance to qualify.
“London is one of the key parts of the diving calendar this year because it’s the middle part of the World Series. So it’s a really good marker to see how the new dive’s going and how all of that is piecing together and it’s exactly the half-way mark competition wise so I’m really looking forward to it.”
See Tom Daley in the Fina Diving World Series, 1-3 May at the London Aquatics Centre. Tickets on sale at ticketmaster.co.uk/diving
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