Plymouth’s Tom Daley has backed himself to thrive on the pressure of being a Team GB “poster boy” at this summer’s London Olympics.
The 18-year-old diving medal prospect is one of the most high profile members of Great Britain’s squad heading into their home Games and all eyes will be on the teenager when he competes in the ten metres individual and synchro events in the capital.
Indeed, Daley’s “marketability” has proved problematic at times, with British Diving performance director Alexei Evangulov criticising his commitments away from the pool earlier this year.
However, Daley does not fear the burden of expectation, while Evangulov yesterday declared the Devonian ready to live up to his potential.
“There’s always pressure and expectation on anyone going into any competition,” Daley said. “But I’ve just got to focus on doing the best six dives that I possibly can.
“I love pressure. In a competition, when someone does a good dive in front of you, you want to try to beat it. So I enjoy that kind of pressure.
“In terms of media pressure that we’ve had so far, with everyone expecting that you just walk into the competition and win gold, that is kind of different. All I can do is focus on my own performance.”
Daley competed at the Beijing Olympics four years ago in a blaze of publicity and insists that experience will prove crucial this time around. He said: “Everything that I learned in Beijing has taught me to go into an Olympic Games treating it like a normal competition and not let the whole Olympic rings thing and the fact there are so many people watching me overwhelm me. Beijing was an amazing experience to have in preparing for these Olympics.
“My form leading into the Olympics has been pretty good so far, so touch wood it will carry on like that.
“I’ve been working on the consistency of my dives and the four new dives I’ve got – the hardest dives in the world. So for me to be able to perform them consistently, as I have over the course of this year, has been one key goal for me.”
Daley hopes he has timed his run of form perfectly. “Learning my dives and working on them has been timed well, because I learned them two years ago and any diver knows it takes a good year and a half to perfect them,” he said.
“That’s why I learned them so early – last year wasn’t such a great year because I had those new dives but I’ve been working on them and I feel comfortable with them.”
Daley and Evangulov reportedly patched up their differences quickly after their brief spat, and the Russian is pleased with his charge’s progress.
Evangulov said: “Today I can confirm the expectation that we have of Tom can come true, because he is ready not only technically and physically but also psychologically.
“He is ready. Also, our pairing of Tom and Peter Waterfield is very strong. In the last World Series, they were always in a medal position. I can even say that we scared a lot of our rivals. That’s why we’re happy where we are now.”