Unassuming but extraordinary!

Last Updated : 06 June 2012, 16:40 IST
Last Updated : 06 June 2012, 16:40 IST

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A poster boy for the London 2012 Olympics and one of Britain's biggest medal hopes this summer, Tom Daley is not your average 18-year-old.

World titles, photoshoots and an autobiography... and it is unlikely any other teenager had supermodel Kate Moss feature in his GCSE photography coursework.

Yet meeting him at school in south-west England, you would hardly pick him from a crowd, so unassuming is the diver. In school uniform with work folder in hand, the only giveaway that Daley is a world class athlete is the European Championships gold medal weighing down his blazer pocket.

He is particularly proud of this latest gong, and having also clinched the World Series gold in Mexico in recent months, Daley has hit top form just at the right time with the Olympics looming into sight.

"The Olympic title is the only title I am yet to win, and it's just so exciting that it's coming up and it's getting so close and it's scary to think it's just down to six dives," Daley said. “If you do those six dives really well then you could be up on the podium. If you do those six dives not so well then you can be right down at the bottom.

"Diving is such an on-the-day sport, so nobody knows what the result is going to be until it's happened."

Earlier this year he was criticised by British diving performance director Alexei Evangulov who said Daley's many media and sponsorship commitments were preventing him from fulfilling his potential.

Daley, along with his 10-metre synchronised partner Peter Waterfield, finished seventh at the World Cup in April.

However, recent form has seen Evangulov change his opinion and the performance director now thinks Daley can challenge for the gold medal.

Daley, who trains for five hours a day, attributes regular competition and hard work for his improved form. "I think at the beginning of the year, at the World Cup I didn't dive so great," Daley said. "It was in the synchronised competition. It was our first competition for eight months so you're always a bit rusty.

"But since then I've been working really hard in the pool and outside of the pool too, making sure I'm doing everything I possibly can do to put me in the best position going into a competition."

Evangulov now believes Daley can break the stranglehold China have on the world of diving. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China won seven of the eight gold medals available and at this year's World Cup they had a clean sweep.

Qiu Bo and Lin Yue are China's main two divers in the 10M platform and Daley is only too aware of the threat they pose. "The Chinese are very machine-like, they're the top diving nation," he said.

Published 06 June 2012, 16:40 IST

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