Daley resists Chinese rule

British pair hope to spring a surprise in the synchronised diving, writes Jack Pitt-Brooke

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The Independent Online

Real sporting greatness is within Tom Daley's grasp in London. He has already assembled an impressive body of work, with world and European championship gold medals, by the age of 18. And he has also shown remarkable character, with a precocious start to his career, competing at an Olympic Games at the age of 14, and of course dealing with the loss of his father to cancer last year.

No competitive challenge matters as much as that, but Olympic success for Daley will mark him as part of the British sporting elite. Not just for an Olympic medal, but for the prospect of turning back the Chinese tide.

Few sports are dominated by one country as much as diving and China, and when Daley and Pete Waterfield compete in the men's synchronised 10m platform this afternoon they will be facing the talented Chinese teenage pair of Yanquan Zhang and Yuan Cao. Qiu Bo, the brilliant Chinese 19-year-old, awaits in the individual 10m competition next week.

Daley knows that to beat the Chinese would be a remarkable achievement. "Normally in diving, silver is gold because the Chinese dominate everything," he said. "But then you never know what can happen in the Olympic Games."

The British pair have form on their side. Daley and Waterfield were winners on the 10m platform synchronised at the Fina Diving World Series earlier this year, while Daley, who is diving as well as he ever has done, also won the overall individual event. Daley was not sure which event would be harder but both will be exacting contests.

"Both events are just as strong as each other," said Daley. "In synchro it's tough because there are eight teams and all of them could win medals. You wouldn't be able to guess the results of the men's 10m synchro. The top eight divers in the world are here and, for me, any of them could get a medal. "

Daley will certainly be helped today by the strength of his relationship with Waterfield, despite the 13-year age difference between them. Waterfield won silver in the 10m synchronised in Athens and Daley remembers eagerly watching him at the age of 10 while on a family caravan holiday in Newquay, adjusting the television aerial to pick up the coverage of the event.

Now they are team-mates and Waterfield said that they work well together. "As far as chemistry, we've both got dreams and we've both got aspirations and we both want to achieve the same things," explained the senior partner. "By working as hard as we can for each other hopefully we can go and win a medal."

As for the pressure of it all, Daley said: "Pressure is not a bad thing," he said. "I quite like pressure going into a competition. Divers either handle it or they don't. I've had pressure for a long time now and it's something I've been able to get used to."