Tom Daley gives Alexei Evangulov ringing endorsement

 

Tom Daley publicly launched his bid for Olympic glory today in a press conference that veered from questions about his late father to the importance of personal grooming.

Such is the 18-year-old's pulling power he was almost the sole focus of a 40-minute session, which was also attended by three of his team-mates and controversial performance director Alexei Evangulov, as a relaxed Daley indulged the weird and wonderful of the world media's interest in Great Britain's Olympic poster boy.

Perhaps the most telling of his responses though was to offer a full endorsement of Evangulov.

Only six months ago their relationship hit the headlines after the Russian publicly questioned Daley's Olympic ambitions, claiming he was allowing his media commitments to get in the way of his training.

There was no sign of unease between the pair as they sat side by side today though with both offering the other lavish and unprompted praise to erase any notion that a fractious relationship could undermine Daley's bid to add an Olympic medal to an already impressive haul.

"That (Evangulov's criticism) is all in the past now. I think Alexei is what British Diving has needed," Daley said, as Team GB prepare to send out the strongest diving team in their history.

"I think Alexei has really shaped the Olympic team into something that he had a vision of when he joined the team in 2009. He's made it the team that it is today.

"He's been able to push all the divers in to what they need to do. We are the strongest team results wise this year."

A clearly taken aback Evangulov was prompted to utter off microphone: "Well, thank you."

The smoothing over of any dispute has been aided by a stellar six months for Daley since the criticism - which came during the World Cup meet at the Olympic pool in February - in which the teenager has hit peak form and, in addition to two achieving personal bests, was crowned World Series and European champion.

It has prompted belief that Daley could topple the all-conquering Chinese, headed by Qiu Bo, in front of 17,500 home fans in the Aquatics Centre.

With expectation rising Evangulov revealed he would seek to reduce the hype and pressure on his young charge over the next fortnight by ordering him out of the Olympic Village, and to a training base in Southend for six days, in between his events.

After competing alongside veteran Pete Waterfield in the platform synchro on Monday, Daley will have an 11-day wait before he returns for the individual event in which he was crowned Great Britain's youngest ever world champion as a 15-year-old.

"From my experience working with the Russian team we always try escape from the Olympic environment because you can be exhausted emotionally," Evangulov said.

"You can be good physically but emotionally you can be tired. That's why we decided to get a rest from the Olympic environment - we needed some solitude.

"That's why we are going for five to six days. Southend is the best base and diving facility in this country."

It is a scenario that appeared to sit comfortably with Daley, who added: "Alexei has come up with a very good plan.

"We are going to go away from the Olympic Village, go to Southend and stay away from all the hype and then come back in so you are refreshed and excited again to have the atmosphere of the Olympic Games."

Daley's quest for Olympic glory is also set to be played under the backdrop of his desire to win a medal for his late father Robert.

Daley was at his dad's bedside in May last year when he lost his long battle with brain cancer.

Robert Daley had been a constant at poolside during Daley's career and had pledged that he would live to see his son compete in London.

Daley admitted his absence ensured the Games would be "extra special" but that he would be cheered on by the remainder of his family who had managed to get tickets.

"Definitely. It's been a tough year for me," he said.

"Going in to this competition the only thing I can focus on is my performance. I know that all my family is going to be there watching. They've all managed to get tickets which is great. I'm really looking forward to having my family there. It's always there in the back of your head.

"It would be extra special if I could do well at these Games."

PA

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