For somebody derided by his country's own performance director as in danger of becoming the Anna Kournikova of diving, Tom Daley has produced a telling riposte as the 17-year-old rounded off the World Series by winning gold in the Mexican leg to add to successive silvers from the first three events.
Daley scored a 10 on his final dive to finish an impressive 20 points clear of the field in Tijuana on Saturday night. Qui Bo, the Chinese world champion and overwhelming favourite for gold in London, did not take part, but Daley furthered his standing as Bo's closest challenger with his performance in the 10m platform. It completed a fine series for Daley, who also took bronze in the 10m synchro with partner Pete Waterfield.
Since a rusty performance at a World Cup event in London two months ago, Daley has produced a string of improving dives both on his own and in partnership with Waterfield. He is now undoubtedly a strong contender to win two medals at this summer's Olympics.
It was during the World Cup at the Aquatics Centre that Alexei Evangulov, the Russian disciplinarian imported to run British diving, made two eye-opening verbal assaults on Daley, accusing him of not training hard enough and being distracted by commercial activities – hence the Kournikova jibe. The pair are supposed to have settled their differences at a meeting in London the day after the World Cup.
Daley has always strongly denied that anything interferes with his training and preparation. He and Waterfield put their display in London down simply to being at an early stage in their preparations for the Games – injury had got in the way – and their performances over the last few weeks have supported that.
Daley is diving as well as he did when he became world champion at the age of 15 in 2009. This weekend's dives were his best of the series as he exceeded his highest World Series event score by 0.05, thanks to that perfect final effort. Bo, who like most of the leading Chinese divers skipped the Tijuana meet, is regarded as unbeatable unless he makes a mistake, but Daley's brisk improvement suggests he will be there to take advantage should that happen.
There is also the prospect of British diving medals in London beyond Daley and Waterfield. Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow had struggled in the World Series since making the podium in the London World Cup, but they matched that this weekend with a bronze in the women's platform team. Chris Mears and Nick Robinson-Baker also took a surprise silver in the 3m synchro.Reuse content