For Torvill and Dean in Sarajevo '84 and Nadia Comaneci in Montreal '76, read Tom Daley in Delhi 2010. At 16, the Plymouth schoolboy has already achieved much in his sporting life: Olympic selection at 13, Olympic appearance at 14, world champion at 15, Commonwealth champion at 16. Now he can join those rare sporting beasts who have managed to achieve perfection on the high-pressure stage of a major multi-sport Games.
He did so in the third round of what proved to be a truly thrilling duel in the Commonwealth Games diving pool yesterday. Daley was trailing his arch rival Matt Mitcham in the 10m platform final when he launched himself from the board high up in the Dr SP Mukherjee Aquatics Complex into a spectacular inward three-and-a-half somersault, hitting the water like an arrow, at 30mph.
The splash was minimal; the score was maximal. All seven judges awarded the pride of Plymouth Diving Club a 10. It was a feat that Comaneci achieved not once but seven times as a 14-year-old gymnast at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean only got sixes when they performed to Ravel's "Bolero" in the ice dance at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, but then that too was a perfect score.
Daley could not help beaming a golden smile of satisfaction but the diminutive teenager still had work to do to add the individual title to the synchronised crown he had won in tandem with his England team-mate Max Brick the previous day. He was still trailing Mitcham, the Olympic champion, with three rounds to go.
It said much about Daley's temperament that he managed to maintain his composure. He took the lead in the fourth round and remained there, earning a single 10 in his last round marks as Mitcham ultimately crumbled, Daley winning by 538.35 points to 509.15.
"This year I have had to deal with growing, with injuries, and with learning new dives," Daley said. "And coming out of all that to win two Commonwealth gold medals... it couldn't have gone any better."
It certainly could not have gone any better on his third dive yesterday. "I have only scored straight 10 on two dives, in a grand prix in Fort Lauderdale last year and here today," Daley said. "Here is special because it is a major event with top judges. If you do seven perfect 10s, you have done the perfect dive. And that's a dive I usually struggle with."
Again, it said much for Daley that he showed no signs of struggling to find his form, despite still suffering from a triceps injury that forced him to miss the European Championships in Budapest in August.
"Tom is such a phenomenal talent," Mitcham said. "I do feel sorry for the little tucker, with all the pressure he's going to have coming into the London Olympics in 2012. I'm going to have the benefit and the privilege of being the underdog, because that's where I like to sit. I wish him all the best over the next two years. I think it's going to be a battle royale."Reuse content