An Olympic hero aged just 14 – but bullies make his life hell
ONE of Britain's top medal hopes for the London Olympics is being bullied at school due to his high profile, his parents said yesterday.
Teenage diver Tom Daley shot to national fame when he was selected for the Beijing Games and became one of Britain's youngest ever Olympians.
The 14-year-old is expected to challenge for medals when the event comes to London in 2012, but his father said the success was causing him problems at school.
Rob Daley, from Plymouth, said he was considering moving his son from Eggbuckland Community College because of the constant jibes and "childish name-calling and antics" of his fellow students.
Mr Daley said: "I've been to see Tom's head of year and also the principal in the past six weeks, because Tom has been so upset.
"Although they cannot be held responsible for the students, I do think the school should be more proactive in trying to sort this bullying out.
"We wouldn't want to have to do it, but we will change schools unless this is sorted out, as my son's wellbeing comes before everything else."
Mr Daley admitted keeping Tom away from school for two days before the Easter break because he felt the bullying might affect his form at the FINA World Series competition in Sheffield.
At the event, Tom competed against Australian Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham and won a silver medal, finishing less than a point away from gold.
Tom said the bullying started after last year's Olympics and got increasingly worse.
He said: "I'd always ignored the 'diver boy' or 'Speedo boy' comments when I came back from Beijing last year, hoping they'd get fed up and stop.
"The trouble is, they haven't, and it's even the younger kids who are joining in. It's getting to the stage now where I think, 'Oh, to hell with it. I don't want to go back to school'."
Katrina Borowski, the school's principal, said: "Tom's extremely high profile has led to a minority of students acting in an immature way towards him.
"Meetings have been held between college staff, parents and Tom's friends in which appropriate strategies were discussed."
Ms Borowski said some students were sanctioned following the complaint and added that the majority considered him "a credit to our college."
Dr Mary Brown, lecturer in psychology at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said bullies were just as likely to pick on a sporting hero as a timid child.
"The bullies recognise psychological strength and are envious of it. They will also be jealous of the great deal of attention Tom has been attracting because he is talented, successful, good socially and popular.
"They know that someone like Tom, who also has physical strength, has learned to harness that strength and will not allow himself to be provoked into retaliating.
"There is a myth that only 'wimpy anoraks' are bullied but the real-life evidence points to the opposite being the case."
Dr Brown added that she welcomed the fact that Tom and his father had drawn attention to the problem. "Tom has done the right thing by speaking out. An Olympian admitting he is being bullied will help others who don't have his confidence."
SPRINGBOARD TO SUCCESS
TOM Daley, 14, attracted public attention last summer as Great Britain's youngest competitor at the Beijing Olympics.
Daley, who specialises in the 10m platform event, finished seventh in the individual platform competition and eighth in the synchronised 10m competition.
During the Olympics, he rowed with diving partner Blake Aldridge when the latter phoned his mother between rounds.
When Aldridge missed the British Championships because of an injury sustained in a nightclub incident, Daley's father said he would like his son to have a different diving partner.
This month he started diving with Max Brick, two years his senior, compared with the 12-year gap with Aldridge. The teenager started diving at seven and is a member of Plymouth Diving Club. In 2007, Daley was BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
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