Diving: Veteran diver Greg Louganis praises Tom Daley


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The Independent Online

This afternoon, four-time Olympic champion Greg Louganis will be just metres away, watching from the stands, as the 18-year-old Briton, who he prefers to call Thomas, competes in the men’s synchronised event alongside Pete Waterfield.

“I remember meeting Thomas at an event in Arizona and he was either injured or too tired so didn’t compete in the platform but in the springboard,” said Louganis. “I’d heard a lot about him and wanted to meet him.”

Louganis, though, insists it was not a case of passing on advice about what it takes to be an Olympic champion but “just a chat”.

There are parallels between the pair despite it being nearly a quarter of a century since Louganis’s finest hour. He claimed gold at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul after cracking his head on the diving board qualifying for the 3m springboard event.

After having his cut head stitched up and a conversation with his coach, Louganis decided to continue. “My coach knew my confidence was shot to pieces after that incident but he said ‘I know you don’t believe in yourself but I believe in you so believe in me’. That helped me through.”

In the case of Daley, his father Rob, his most trusted guide, will not be there for his two competitions — he will also go for gold in the individual event — having passed away in May last year following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Daley’s personal battles for these Games are considerably more brutal than what Louganis encountered 24 years ago but the American believes they share a similar mental strength from their setbacks.

“It’s so unfortunate what happened with his father,” said Louganis. “I can’t pretend to know him but what he has been through has been hard.”

The area where Louganis can best understand Daley is in terms of the pressures of being a home athlete. In 1984 in Los Angeles, Louganis was one of the flagship American stars expected to win gold. “It was a challenge as you could be affected by the slightest comment,” said the 52-year-old, who went on to win two golds in Los Angeles.

“However well intended, it could get into your head. People can say the dumbest things in the moment.

Thomas just needs to block that out.”

Looking ahead to the synchro event, Louganis said: “The British guys have a wonderful chance. What it comes down to is who delivers.”

Daley and Waterfield boast very different body shapes — Daley is four inches taller than Waterfield, who is 13 years his senior — but Louganis believes they can overcome that in their quest for gold.

“Ideally in diving, you want to have very similar body types,” he said. “If not, it becomes more challenging.

But clearly they’ve been good enough to overcome that judging by their results.”

Daley and Waterfield are the 2012 World Series champions, although their Chinese rivals are expected to  win both 10m platform golds.