Peter Waterfield may not be as well known as his synchronised diving partner Tom Daley, but at No 5 he is 10 places above him in the world rankings and has just beaten him in the individual 10m Platform diving event at the British National Cup – for the second year running.
The pair teamed up to win the combined synchronised 10m Platform event at the same competition and are favourites to compete alongside each other at the 2012 Olympics. Over the coming months they will be diving together in the World Series – taking part in competitions in Russia, China, Sheffield and then Mexico – in preparation for the London Games.
But despite their success, they are not guaranteed a place in London 2012 yet; they still have to qualify. The first opportunity is at the World Championships in July. If a British athlete finishes in the top 12, then Britain qualifies for one Olympic place. The divers then compete at the National Championship to see who takes that place. As Waterfield says: "I could potentially earn that spot and not get the place." There will be a maximum of two places available for Britain in the combined 10 Platform.
For most British athletes, the Games will be special because they have the opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd. Yet there is a particular connection for Waterfield as he is from Walthamstow and the house he grew up in as a child – where his father still lives – is a 10-minute bus ride from where he will be competing, provided he qualifies, in 2012.
"It's going to be brilliant, I can't wait. Taking part in the Olympics is great but to have your home country behind you and competing in your home town is amazing. I'll have friends and family there but having the whole country behind you is unbelievable. I competed in Manchester in the Commonwealth Games so I know what that's like – but it's going to be twice as big."
At 29, he has a great deal of experience as an athlete. In the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 he won gold in the individual 10m Platform event and four years later won silver in Melbourne. In the synchronised event he won silver in the 2004 Olympics with his old partner Leon Taylor. All experiences he is keen to share with his younger team-mate.
"I said to Tom: 'I'm here, I've got experience and I've been through a lot of good and bad in my career.' If he ever needs to ask me anything he's more than welcome. When we go away with the Britain team I'm always the oldest one and I say that to anyone."
Preparation is made more difficult for Britain's top-ranked diver as he is having to hold down a job, as a mentor for children in schools for the Youth Sport Trust, alongside his training schedule. "I can't get any sponsorship and if I don't get any support then I'll have to keep working right up until the start of the Olympics," he said. "Everyone else is training full-time. It puts me at a disadvantage."
He seems content, however, to keep working hard, to be the man in the shadows, while 16-year-old Daley gets the attention. "Tom has built up his profile around the globe, he's like a little pop star," Waterfield says. "I'd like it if we won a medal and people gave me a little pat on the back, but I would be stupid to think I'm going to get the sort of attention he will. As long as I've got a medal around my neck and can feed my family I'll be happy."