Teenage diving sensation Tom Daley’s much-hyped Olympic debut ended in disappointment after he and partner Blake Aldridge finished last in the men’s synchronised 10metre platform event.
The 14-year-old Daley and his team-mate began well, finishing the first round in joint third out of eight with Australia and Germany.
However, poor synchronisation on their third dive – an inward three-and-a-half somersault with tuck – cost them their worst score of the competition and dropped them to eighth and last place from which they could not recover.
‘We obviously didn’t dive very well, as you could probably tell. It was disappointing but it was a great experience,’ said Daley.
‘I really enjoyed myself and had so much fun out there. That is all you can ask for getting the experience of it.
‘We prepared like a normal competition and we treated it like a normal competition. It was just the fact it wasn’t our day today, we just had a bad day.
‘We put 100% effort into every dive we did we just didn’t pull it off.
‘All the synchro was really good it was just a matter of the dives. If we had posted our personal best of 446 that would have got us fourth.’
Daley will now compete in the 10m platform individual but for Aldridge his Olympics is over.
‘Unfortunately I don’t have another chance. I’m a little bit disappointed,’ he said.
‘I’m happy with the way I dived. It was a great experience to get out there in the Olympic Games and unfortunately we didn’t place where we could of placed.’
Daley’s amazing bust-up with dive partner
Britain’s 14-year-old diving sensation Tom Daley and partner Blake Aldridge had a bust-up during the men’s synchronised 10metre platform in Beijing today as the pair finished last.
The event was won by Chinese duo Lin Yue and Huo Lian – as the British pair fell away following a promising first dive.
Aldridge, 26, said that Daley had had a go at him during the competition for speaking on his phone to his mum and then blamed the youngster’s nerves for their poor performance.
‘He had a pop at me before the last dive, when we were sitting down,’ said Aldridge.
‘I saw my mum in the audience and I asked her to give me a call and Tom went to me, “Why are you on the phone? We’re still in the competition and we’ve got another dive to do.”
‘That’s just Thomas – he’s over-nervous and that’s how it was today. Thomas should not be worrying about what I’m doing, but today he was worrying about everyone and everything and that to me is really the sole reason why he didn’t perform today.
‘I’m not disappointed with my performance. I wasn’t at my best but I landed on my head with every single dive, which was my aim. But it was hard work for me today. Tom was very nervous, more so than ever before.
‘I think he really struggled to get through the competition, and as his partner it was hard for me to get up there and try and ease him into it. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t work today.
‘I knew, going into this Olympic Games, that we were capable of a medal, but I also knew that it depended on how Tom performed. I wasn’t on the top of my game, but I out-dived Thomas today and that’s not something that normally happens. That to me is because he had a lot more pressure on him than I did.’
Daley will now compete in the 10m platform individual event but, for Aldridge, the Games are over.
MEET TOM DALEY
Born: 21 May 1994
Will be 14 years and 81 days old when Beijing Games begin
England’s youngest ever senior 10m platform champion
BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year 2007
At 5ft 2in, Tom Daley may look up to his rivals physically.
But in terms of sheer ability, British diving’s greatest hope can look down from his lofty perch as the current European and British senior men’s 10m platform champion.
Daley, born in May 1994, will be just 14 years and 81 days old when the Beijing Games – for which he has qualified – begin.
His Olympic year has already yielded a fistful of gold medals – six at the British Championships in Manchester and another at the Europeans in Eindhoven.
Like Daley’s many other medals since he took up the sport, they will hang from his bedroom wall in Plymouth, where he attends Eggbuckland Community College.
His choice of decor does not represent your average 13-year-old’s bedroom. The medals sit alongside union jack flags, a picture of the Team GB logo, and a personalised licence plate which reads D11VVE.
Though qualifying for Beijing is a superb achievement, Daley remains focused on 2012.
“My biggest dream would be to get gold in front of a home crowd in London,” he told the BBC’s Olympic Dreams programme when he was 11.
“Everyone wants to be an Olympian and to get an Olympic gold medal.”
Daley, who lives with dad Rob, mum Debbie and two brothers, was introduced to diving by chance at the age of seven.
“I was doing a public session in a swimming pool, saw people diving, and thought I’d like to do that,” he said.
“My dad took me down on Saturday mornings and after half a year I got talent spotted out of nowhere.”
Three years later, he was the best diver for his age in Britain and, aged 12, he gained special permission to take part in the Youth Olympics Festival, despite the usual minimum age being 15.
Since then, Daley has racked up both junior and senior titles, both as an individual and with synchro partner Blake Aldridge.
Daley’s hero and mentor, the extremely accomplished 30-year-old GB diver Leon Taylor, says Tom has not let such early success go to his head.
“He has that something about him,” says Taylor. “I’m not even going to try and define it. Let’s call it an X-factor.
“There was just a glint in his eye when I talked to him. He’s such a nice guy too. Tom’s got a good head on his shoulders and I was really impressed by that.”
One of the youngster’s most treasured possessions is a photo of himself alongside Taylor, posing with the latter’s silver medal from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Daley’s other great role model is the cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose book he has read.
Rob Daley, who has given up his job to follow son Tom’s exploits, now films every dive at every competition.
Father and son then post the videos on YouTube, where impressed fans have left dozens of encouraging comments.
Daley also lists social networking sites Facebook and Bebo among his pastimes, alongside listening to the likes of Rihanna.
Whether his father will approve of his other ambition – a tattoo of the Olympic rings – remains to be seen.
Daley junior says he may have to wait until London 2012, by which time the decision will be his alone.