Tom Daley enjoyed a comfortable start at the British Gas Diving Championships to a season that will see him strive to regain his ten metres platform world title.
The 18-year-old easily retained his national title in front of a sell-out crowd at his home pool in Plymouth.
Tickets for yesterday’s event sold out in ten minutes and, while the star attraction had suffered from a cold in the lead-up, Daley was never tested in his first competition of the year as he posted 501.00.
While that was short of his very best, half of his six-dive list did attract scores above 90, in an early-season hit-out to shed the rust of an off-season that has seen him co-present the ITV show Splash!.
“It wasn’t too bad a start to the season – both my performances were over 500, which is all I can ask for, really,” Daley said last night.
“I’ve been trying to overcome a chest and throat infection to compete here and it could’ve been a little bit better. There are a few tweaks I can make and hopefully it will come together later in the season,” added Daley, who will bid to regain his world title in Barcelona this summer.
The Devon teenager became Great Britain’s youngest world champion when he won the 10m platform as a 15-year-old in Rome four years ago.
Fierce rival Qiu Bo snatched back the title two years ago and after a titanic Olympic final last year – when both were edged out by American David Boudia – a re-match is already on Daley’s mind.
“To get the world title back would be the ultimate dream this season – that would be amazing,” he said. “But it’s about working on consistency because everyone is learning lots of harder, new dives.
“The year after the Olympics is always a bit up in the air because no one knows who could come through and win the competition, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out,” Daley added.
With Pete Waterfield absent from yesterday’s competition – the veteran’s diving future remains in doubt after a decision to cut his funding – Daley claimed victory by a mammoth 126.10 points. City of Leeds’ James Denny won silver, with 16-year-old Daniel Goodfellow – earmarked to be Daley’s synchro partner in the future – taking bronze.
Plymouth’s Tonia Couch claimed her second gold medal in as many days with victory in the women’s 10m platform on Saturday.
The 23-year-old was controversially omitted from the individual platform in London, despite qualifying second best, but showed she was ready to impress if picked for the World Championships in Barcelona later this year.
With title holder Stacie Powell absent, and Monique Gladding having retired after the Olympics, Couch followed Friday’s platform synchro success alongside Plymouth Diving team-mate Sarah Barrow with a comfortable win on 365.20 points.
“I’m really pleased,” said Couch, who beat Barrow by 67.95 points. “I scored three more points than I did at the Olympic trials, and my hardest dive was my best today.
“Last year I felt I had a lot to improve, and this year I’ve gone along and done that. I know I can do better so, you never know, I might get higher next time.”
Jack Laugher took another step towards putting his Olympic setback behind him with an impressive 3m springboard success on Saturday.
Laugher has become one of the most highly rated young divers in the world, but suffered at the London Olympics when he crashed out in the first round.
The 18-year-old finished with a score of 448.10 this weekend, which would have been good enough for bronze at the Olympics, to underline the North Yorkshire diver’s potential after he included two new difficult dives into competition for the first time.