Exclusive: Tom Daley on the twists and turns of diving

The diving world champion tells Martin Caparrotta about his excitement ahead of the 2012 Games

Tom Daley
(Photo: Steve Punter)

Tom Daley

Last June, at 15 years and 61 days old, Tom Daley became Britain’s youngest ever world champion in an Olympic sport.

His  10m diving event gold medal -won at the Swimming World Championships in Rome -came less than a year after he had represented his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Unsurprisingly, the 15-year-old cites last summer’s achievement as his proudest moment in the sport to date. “It’s something that you aim to achieve at some point in your career, but to have done it so early is amazing,” Daley tells The Sport Review.

“It meant all of the hard work and training had paid off.”

Having sampled the “buzz” of Olympic competition in Beijing, where he came seventh in the individual 10m competition, he has his sights firmly set on the podium at the 2012 Games in London.

“I’m looking forward to the Games like you couldn’t even imagine!” he says. “The preparation is going well and I’m learning lots of new dives and working on my strength, but it is still quite a long way away and I think that I need to focus on the up-and-coming events at the moment.”

He modestly describes his experience at the Beijing Games in 2008 as simply an incentive that  encouraged  him to work harder. “To go to the Olympics is what every athlete strives to do and for me to qualify [for Beijing] was a long shot, but when I did it made me work so much harder. And the experience itself was awesome.”

After becoming an Olympian aged 14, Tom is clearly not your typical teenager. So how does he cope with the gruelling demands of GCSE exams? “It’s hard to fit in in all of my schoolwork,” he admits. “I train for four hours six days a week when I’m at school and 5-6 when I’m not. My school, Plymouth College, is very supportive though, and they are able to adapt my timetable and exam dates.”

He has already taken his maths and English GCSEs and plans to sit the rest before the end of the summer, a year ahead of his classmates.

Daley describes his unforgiving routine as “non-stop”, but demonstrates maturity beyond his years in his appreciation of the importance of hard work. “On a typical day I get up at 7.15 and get ready for school for 8.30. I get back from school at 3.45, and do all of my homework, eat my tea and then it’s training from 5-9 every weekday.

“It’s very busy and it is a lot of work, but everyone has to make sacrifices if you want to be the best. I’ve had to sacrifice going out with my mates during the week and sometimes I don’t get to see them at the weekend because I’m always away doing stuff.

“But in the end everything is worth it because you don’t get success without the hard work.”

So how did he first discover diving?  “I was a swimmer from the early age of three,” he continues. “I was a strong swimmer and enjoyed it, but after a while I found it boring. One day my dad took me to a public swimming session and I saw the diving boards and thought I would give it a go.”

In one minor drawback, diving does prevent him from doing his favourite sports away from the pool. “I really enjoy skiing and wake-boarding, but I can’t do them as much as I would like because of the risk of injuries.”

“I love all Olympic sports. I enjoy watching anything that is in the Olympics. I’m not the biggest fan of football and rugby but I still watch them because my brothers play them.”

And what aspects of diving does Tom think can attracts newcomers to the sport? “It’s fun!” he says simply. “But it’s also the adrenaline rush you get from it. People  think it’s pretty cool to learn somersaults and twists.”

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