Out of sync and out of sorts: Daley fails to perform on Olympic stage

How diver Tom's partnership with a former B&Q shelf-stacker fell apart under Olympic pressure

As syncronised divers, they were only as good as each other. But in several respects Tom Daley, the Plymouth schoolboy who has captivated the world's attention, and Blake Aldridge, the former B&Q shelf-stacker almost double his age, were anything but equal partners.

Whereas Daley has been fêted and adored by all who hear about his precocious talents, Aldridge has been ignored by the world's media. Yesterday, it all became too much. Shattering the pretence of cordiality that has existed between the pair for the past six months, Aldridge claimed the 14-year-old not only fluffed his Olympic debut yesterday but cost his team-mate the only chance he will ever have of winning an Olympic medal.

"I didn't blow anything and so I can go home happy with my performance," Aldridge said. "But unfortunately it's a partnership, you both have to be on the top of your game. I wasn't on the top of my game but Tom was nowhere near the top of his."

Daley, 14, was thought to have an outside chance of becoming Britain's youngest medallist but he and Aldridge finished last in the field of eight after a poor third dive.

Pointedly switching between "Tom" and "Thomas" when referring to his partner, Aldridge said: "I knew we were capable of a medal but I knew it would depend on how Tom performed. I out-dived Thomas today and that's not something that normally happens, and that, to me, is because Tom had a lot more pressure on him than I did. Tom was very nervous; more so than ever before and I think he really struggled to get through the competition."

Yesterday morning, Daley featured on the front of a special Olympic supplement in Beijing's China Daily, an English language paper with a circulation of 200,000, beneath the headline: "Peking Tom – why everyone's looking at this 14 year-old darling diver".

Asked whether the publicity surrounding his partner had made things harder for the pair, Aldridge said: "Certainly." He went on: "I think that's the sole reason why it went the way it did," before adding: "I'm not disappointed with my performance at all."

Aldridge, who, before taking up training full-time, stacked shelves in a B&Q store in his adopted home of Southampton, also explained that Daley "had a pop" at him between their fifth and sixth dives. "When we were sitting down," he said, "I saw my mum in the audience and I asked her to give me a call and Tom went to me 'Why are you on the phone? We're in a competition, we've got another dive to do.'"Asked why the 14 year-old snapped at him, Aldridge said: "That is Thomas over-nervous; that is how it was today... Today he was worrying about everyone and everything and that to me is the sole reason why he didn't perform today."

Daley, in contrast, said: "I was quite disappointed but it was a great experience and I really enjoyed myself. I had so much fun out there. That's all you can ask, getting the experience."

It marks the culmination of a tense relationship between Aldridge and the schoolboy from Plymouth. Selected to represent Team GB ahead of Leon Taylor, Daley's 30-year-old mentor, and Pete Waterfield, Aldridge's best friend, they amassed a British-record 446 points from six dives in winning the bronze medal at the recent World Cup. But the huge gap in their ages has proved a source of lingering disquiet.

Beijing was always a bonus for the 26-year-old, who overcame two horrific injuries earlier in his career to qualify for Beijing. Shortly after recovering from a fractured skull two years ago, Aldridge nearly lost his sight when a training dive went wrong. Waterfield, who was training with him, leapt into the water to rescue him. Aldridge, whose eyelids were so swollen that his eyelashes were facing into his eyes, needed laser treatment on two torn retinas.

By the time Daley goes on to compete in the individual 10m platform event in 10 days, Aldridge will be on his way back to Southampton.

Inequality that may have upset the balance

It's interesting that both looked fairly relaxed before the event was actually under way. So whether or not Blake Aldridge's outburst is a sign of some deeper, lingering ill-feeling depends largely on how robust he is as an individual.

There are many cases in sport where people operating in the shadow of a bigger star are forced to confront the fact that they do not make as many headlines. In the case of Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave, this wasn't a big issue. But in the case of Aldridge and Daley it could be. Synchronised diving implies equality and balance.

When the two of them get on that board, the responsibility and the rewards are split 50/50. So for the publicity to be skewed so heavily to one half of the pair upsets that balance.

Striking out at your partner may be the natural reaction but it seems a pretty low blow, and has the appearance of mud-slinging or point scoring. Perhaps Aldridge felt that as the older, more mature member of the pairing it was unjust that he was being largely ignored by the media.

The irony is that his remarks cast him as the less mature one, especially given how composed Daley seems with the media.

Dr Victor Thompson, Sports psychologist

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world