London Eye: Daley accentuates the positive after failing to make a splash
A test event for London's internally spectacular Aquatics Centre and a test event for one of the host nation's most familiar Olympic figures, the 17-year-old “veteran” Tom Daley. For the venue all appears ship shape; for Daley, his partnership with Peter Waterfield remains very much a work in progress.
They finished last night's World Cup event at the Olympic Park in seventh place, someway behind the Chinese winners. With two of the six dives to go they were placed an encouraging third, with hopes of a medal to round off a tough couple of weeks.
But that penultimate dive, the most difficult on the pair's schedule, went wrong as Daley became too cramped in his run up. It led to one low score of 3.5 for Daley and it sent them spiralling out of the medal placings.
"The front four and a half [somersaults] is the dive that is crucial," said Daley. "If you nail it you get launched right up the scoreboard, if you don't you drop down. It was just one dive that we missed and that's what happens. One dive was the difference between getting a medal or not."
Daley has not had his critics to seek recently. Being attacked by an Australian rival is one thing – "He's trying to have his cake and eat it," judged Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham – but being publicly admonished by your own team's performance director is another all together.
The friendly fire came from Alexei Evangulov, British diving's performance director, who claimed that Daley's medal chances are being harmed by his out-of-water commitments.
The remarks may have been intended as a shot across Daley's bows, but they only served to ratchet up the pressure. "There are," said Waterfield, who is 17 years his partner's senior, "a lot of people expecting a lot from us."
Daley insisted last night that there was no problem with the Russian, but there is a fundamental difference of approach to the sport between the team coach and his young charge.
Evangulov, given the chance, would have the British team locked into a Chinese-style boot camp training schedule. That is not Daley's way, nor, it should be said, the way of many British athletes from any sport.
"Alexei knows I'm doing the right amount of training," said Daley. "I'm pushing myself as far as I can go without my body breaking. The things I do, I make sure that I'm having fun. Diving for me is something I love doing – it's the same for Pete, too. We don't do it for any other reason than that we love it. I do everything the way I do it because I enjoy it."
Waterfield, who won silver at the Athens Olympics, was quick to spring to the defence of his other half. "We didn't miss a dive because Tom's been doing too much media," he said. "We missed a dive because we've had some setbacks through injury at the start of the year."
Their performance in the final, however, was a marked improvement on the morning qualification dives when they looked decidedly rusty on occasions.
Daley injured his thumb in January and Waterfield his back and side in December and that has clearly hampered their preparation. Daley though, as is his wont, departed in optimistic mood. They will return to training and the summer's world series before it is back to London for the Games, where they should have a genuine medal chance.
"We want to go into every competition and win, but that's not the reality," pointed out Daley. "We're competitive people, so of course we're going to be disappointed but there's lots we can take from it. Lots of positives but lots we have to work on."
Olympic news you missed this week...
Alistair Brownlee had hoped to be preparing for the Olympic triathlon by running for Bingley Harriers in the English National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill Fields in London tomorrow. Instead, the world triathlon champion is temporarily out of commission with a surgical boot protecting a torn Achilles. He expects to be sidelined "for a month at the very least." "I have shown before that I can return to championship-standard competition in a month," Brownlee said.
Pamela Jelimo returned to form after three injury-plagued years by clocking 1min 59.10sec in France and has been named in the Kenyan team for the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul from 9-11 March.
What's coming up...
Diving The Visa World Cup test event continues until Sunday at the Olympic Aquatics Centre. The preliminaries of the men's 10m platform – minus Tom Daley – take place this afternoon, with the semi-finals and final tomorrow.
Athletics Haile Gebrselassie runs in the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, hoping to qualify for a fifth Olympic Games.
Sir Chris Hoy Dominated the Track Cycling World Cup at the Olympic Velodrome, winning two golds and a silver.
Jessica Ennis Clocked the world's fastest time this year in the indoor 60m hurdles at the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham last Saturday.
Steve Cummings The cycling road racer broke his pelvis on the third stage of the Tour of the Algarve and faces a race to be fit.
Nery Brenes The Costa Rican 400m runner was on course to break Michael Johnson's stadium record at the National Indoor Arena until he tripped and fell 15m from the line.
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