Sometimes people ask how it is that Tom Daley is the subject of not just one, but two books when he is only 18 years old. As the author of one of those books, here’s my reply.
Tom, who started diving as a seven-year-old, has lived a life that is far from ordinary. Since he landed his first medal in 2003 – at the age of nine – he has won medals aplenty, including World and European championships, and a brace of Commonwealth golds. He competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing at the age of just 14. He was the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Meanwhile, away from the pool he has overcome bullying at school, lost his father after a horrific battle with cancer, and become a poster boy and inspiration for a generation. He convinced Kate Moss to pose for photographs for his GCSE project. Even Vogue and Time magazines long ago picked him as ‘one to watch’. The BBC has devoted two full-length documentaries to him.
The more I researched my book about Tom, the more impressed I became with his character. His easy way with the media and love of the spotlight are undeniable, yet he remains grounded and kind. You’ll struggle to find a person with a bad syllable to say about him. Even when I interviewed the diver Blake Aldridge – who told me his side of the story of his falling out with Tom at the 2008 Olympics – he was keen to emphasise that he wishes his former dive partner well.
Realistically, what are Tom’s chances of a medal this weekend? His Chinese opponents, particularly the fearsome Qiu Bo, are formidable. So thorough is the training that the Chinese are put through year in, year out, that it borders on the inhumane. Anyone who manages to finish above Qiu Bo will win gold. So if I were gambling, I’d be tempted to put Tom down for a bronze.
But there is something almost magical in the way London 2012 is unfolding. Maybe Tom can add another gold to his collection this weekend. The Chinese domination of the 3m springboard was smashed on Tuesday, a fact that gave him a timely psychological boost for this Friday. Good luck, Tom!
Here’s a photograph of Tom and I in 2010. I’m the one without the Commonwealth gold medals.