Taking a Dive: Is Great British Hope Tom Daley Set for an Unsuccessful Olympic Games?

Why hasn't Daley harnessed his obvious abilities as a springboard to predicted success this summer?

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The secret to successful diving is to make as little a splash as possible. But when it comes to Tom Daley, Great Britain’s 17-year-old poster boy for the Olympic Games in London, his coach thinks the opposite has been taking place and isn’t at all happy about it.

The British diver sprung to prominence a few years ago (he’s been participating in national and international competitions since the age of nine), and was the team’s youngest competitor at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Though he failed to medal (if he had, it would have been something of a surprise), the invaluable experience surely led to Daley becoming a FINA World Champion the following year in the individual event. 2010 saw him win two golds at the Commonwealth Games. The world appeared his oyster and Team GB have certainly been pinning their hopes on Daley bringing home glory this summer.

So why hasn’t Daley harnessed his obvious abilities as a springboard to predicted success this summer? If anything, he seems to be going backwards, which, whether you want to read that as a mixed metaphor or not, doesn’t ever equate to sporting glory.

The problem surrounds his non-diving activities, specifically his media commitments, interaction with fans and prominence on social media. “Twitter and Facebook is fun. It is my generation,” said Daley. “It has never taken up any training or performance time and does nothing to impact my overall commitment.”

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And who has been pointing the finger of blame? None other than Alexei Evangulov, Team GB’s top diving coach. And among his accusations, the most hurtful must have been the likening of Daley to Evangulov’s fellow Russian Anna Kournikova, the now-retired tennis player who quickly became infamous for achieving far more off court than on it (she failed to win a WTA singles title despite being one of the best-known players on the planet).

Evangulov warned that Daley’s media interests were jeopardizing any hopes of an Olympic medal and that his Chinese rivals “trained three times harder.” Clearly, something had to give and it would appear that Team Daley has (somewhat) backed down. Following the inflammatory remarks, Daley and his management company, the Professional Sports Group, met with Evangulov and British Swimming in the attempt to reach smoother waters. The upshot? A statement released on behalf of Daley said the meeting “readdressed some important issues regarding media work” and that everyone was “fully committed to the same goal.” Daley hailed Evangulov as “one of the best performance directors in the world” and how he had “a lot more to learn from him.” Intriguingly, the statement said Evangulov had approved all of Daley’s commitments and they hadn’t impacted on his London 2012 training.

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We’ll only know if that last remark holds up come the end of the Olympics but Daley hasn’t made the most stellar of starts post (if you will) Kournikova-gate. Since the statement, Daley, and his partner Pete Waterfield, finished seventh in the platform synchro at the World Cup in London, which was their first competition together since a sixth place finish at last summer’s World Championships. Daley put the non-podium result down to injury rather than external reasons, maintaining that “I’m pushing myself as hard as I can go without my body breaking.” But their hard work ultimately counted for nothing as a solid final dive would have meant a medal (they were in the bronze medal position after four rounds) and, injury or not, must have been desperately disappointing for Daley, who would have had the perfect riposte for the naysayers. As it was, the ambitious forward four and half somersault went terribly for Daley, who was completely crooked as he hit the water.

And to the untrained eye, it appears that Daley enjoys blowing off steam: he recently came under fire for releasing a video of himself and other members of Team GB dancing on an Australian beach while miming to LMFAO’s “Sexy And I Know It.” The question remains whether Daley knows this: will he look back on his career one day and wonder if he should have put fun on hold in an Olympic year?

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