TOM Daley insists that diving is his main priority and he wants to compete in five Olympic Games. But he was living the celebrity lifestyle in Glasgow yesterday when he was unveiled as an Ambassador for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Just an hour or so before One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson took to the field at Celtic Park in Stiliyan Petrov’s charity match, hordes of teenage girls had their first chance to scream their heads off when the Olympic bronze medallist appeared at the Fuitmarket in the city centre.
Fortunately, England’s double Commonwealth champion – platform and synchronised from Delhi 2010 – managed to take it all in his stride.
On his first visit to Glasgow the 19-year-old heartthrob had already abseiled down the Finnieston Crane – “what great views of the city” – and late in the afternoon he got his first chance to try his hand at bowls when he joined Scottish legend Willie Wood at Kelvingrove Park.
At the Fruitmarket, he entertained his fans – he has 2.4 million followers on Twitter – by swapping his tracksuit for a kilt in the Glasgow 2014 tartan designed by Shawlands Academy pupil, Aamir Mehmood.
Don’t know if he quite had the legs for it, but I’m sure the girls clapping with thundersticks and taking the inevitable dozens of photographs thought they were perfect.
The lunch fitted perfectly into the bronzed Daley’s hectic schedule. He revealed he has just been “travelling round the world” filming for a yet to be announced TV series and he is looking forward to presenting a second series of the BBC’s celebrity diving programme, Splash, in January.
But he is on a two-month gap from diving. “I’m still doing the other stuff like going to the gym and keeping my body in shape [cue screams] but I’m just on a break from the pool,” he said. “I didn’t really get any time off after the Olympics last year, so I needed the rest.”
Not that he hasn’t been busy. Daley doesn’t do boring. “I’ve always wanted to do lots of things and I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” he said. “I did my A levels and went to school and was training for about five-and-a-half hours every day.
“Never believe those people who say they don’t have time to do homework,” he told his young admirers. “Sorry to be lecturing, but it’s all about time management. Athletes always get their homework in on time.
“I’ve also always wanted to be a TV presenter and it’s been great to have been given the opportunities.
“But the main event in 2014 is going to be the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The trials are in February and I hope to qualify and then get the chance to defend my title.
“It’s a real honour to have been made a Games Ambassador. I’ve learned that people in Scotland are very loud and it’s going to be great next year. The home crowd makes such a difference and I’ve been so lucky to have the 2012 Olympics in London and then the Commonwealth Games.”
Daley took part in a question and answer session – six fans got to join him on the stage – and they came from as far away as Inverness (it was her 15th birthday present) and Penicuik and one lass from Coatbridge had even seen him in real life once before. Clearly dedicated Daley devotees.
The Games’ diving events will actually take place at the Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, and Daley has already tasted success there, winning the gold medal at a leg of the World Series in April.
“It was a great facility and I got a sample of what it will be like next year,” he said.
He also had words of admiration for Scotland’s divers, notably Edinburgh 17-year-old Grace Reid. “I think she will do very well next year,” he predicted.
“She is one of Britain’s younger divers with huge potential. I knew she set PBs at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi and she won a silver at a European Junior Championship. She’s a great talent.”
A swimmer since the age of three and a diver from age seven, Daley divulged that he was a sporting all-rounder during his early school years in Plymouth. “When I was about ten I had to choose between judo and diving and I chose diving,” he said. “But I still love all sports.”
With just a week to go before the close of Glasgow 2014 ticket sales, he had some words of advice for the audience. “Watching sport on TV is fine but it is so much better live,” he said. “I do a lot of gymnastics as part of my training so I definitely want to get tickets.
“I also played badminton at school – and that’s another sport I want to see at the Commonwealth Games. There is always a great atmosphere at badminton events.
“I also fancy watching some of the new sports such as rugby sevens. If I get the chance, I’ll take in a bit of everything.”
But it will be a long time before he is purely a spectator. He expects to be competing on the elite stage for a long time to come. Just 14 when he made his Olympic debut for Team GB at Beijing in 2008, he reckons he could push himself to Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and even another in 2024.
“I could do five,” he said. “But it depends on my body. Sometimes I already feel like an old man. In 2016, I should be at my Olympic peak. But injuries happen.
“I was going well but tore my triceps on the eve of this year’s World Championships in Barcelona. Things can go wrong.”
Before being whisked off for the bowls match with Wood, who competed in seven Commonwealth Games and was twice a gold medallist, he left no one in any doubt that Glasgow 2014 is currently at the top of his wish list.
“Winning gold in Delhi was a great feeling and it is definitely the major event next year,” he said. “Everyone loves Olympic and Commonwealth Games and I’m looking forward to the atmosphere and living in the athletes’ village.
“I’m not sure if I will be doing both synchro and individual. But the goal is to defend my title and stay unbeaten in Commonwealth Games.”