IT WAS supposed to be the Ashes with splashes, but Tom Daley was able to hold off his old Australian adversary Matthew Mitcham with something to spare to take gold in the men’s 10 metres platform final in Edinburgh.
It certainly looked as though 20-year-old Daley re-ignited his reportedly waning enthusiasm following rumours he might be considering retirement to concentrate on his television career.
Instead, it was Mitcham who spent last night considering this question now that, at 26, he is considered old, and after finishing outside the medal places in fourth position. It was Daley who was the star of the show, although he was pushed all the way in the popularity stakes by 14 year-old compatriot Matthew Dixon, who finished ninth in last night’s final – as he had done in the morning preliminaries. With an endearing wave to the cameras after each dive, Dixon melted hearts and sliced stylishly through the water as he announced himself as a potential inheritor of Daley’s crown.
Not that Daley is giving up yet. “I don’t quite know where that rumour came from. I came back from Shanghai to hear I was retiring after the Commonwealths,” he said, after making up for the disappointing bronze medal picked up in the same event at the London Olympics. “But that’s news to me.”
He dismissed those who wonder whether he is allowing his celebrity lifestyle to impact on his training. Rather than hosting another series of celebrity diving series Splash, he confirmed that his major ambition remains the Olympics in 2016. “Diving is my No.1 priority,” he stressed. “I have not got any TV shows I am doing just now. In fact, I want to do a course in Spanish, sociology or politics, just to keep my mind off diving. If your mind is constantly on diving then it will melt.”
It was his mind that some had wondered might trip him up last night. However, Daley overcame his fears of the so-called “demon dive” that has caused him problems, almost doubling the score earned in the morning preliminaries when it had appeared this phobia could be set to be his undoing once more.
For most people, the thought of throwing oneself off a platform ten metres in the air from a backwards start, while performing two and a half somersaults and two and a half twists would be a cause of some concern. But it becomes a major issue if you consider it to be problematic when you are a professional diver, and the dive is one of six forming your programme in a major final.
He asked to retake this twister dive at the Olympics in 2012, after being distracted by a camera flash in the crowd. Yesterday morning, after scoring only 37.80, a message he himself had recorded earlier this year reminded spectators that flash photography was not permitted. “It was just a coincidence,” said Daley later, when asked whether this message had played because he had again been put off. Despite making such a botch of it in the morning, Daley was able to score a respectable 64.80 for his execution of this “demon dive” last night, as he led from start to finish to reach a points total of 516.55.
Scotland’s Grace Reid, meanwhile, completed her very rewarding Commonwealth Games experience with a ninth place finish in the women’s 3m springboard final. “Are you reidy?” asked one banner, and she was. She feared knowing that the majority of those watching were on her side might make her nervous, but she found that it helped settle her.
While preparing to make her final dive last night a large smile broke out across her face as she stood on the board, waiting to plunge into the pool for the last time at a home Games. She has constantly spoken of how much she has been enjoying herself. What’s not to love about feeling such warmth from the crowd while doing something she adores?
“It has helped with the crowd. They lift you up and you forget everything else,” she said. “But I was still breathing like crazy on the last dive. I expected them to make me nervous and jumpy but they chilled me out and made me feel at home.”
Her next red letter day comes as soon as Tuesday, when she is due to receive her Highers results, prior to a gap year in which she will focus on her diving career. “I am going to forget about it for one more day then on Monday I will be a panic-stricken mess,” she said, with reference to these exams results. “I have a couple of conditional university places but it depends on the results. I will deal with it when it comes.” First she wants to enjoy the profile currently being enjoyed by diving due to the efforts of her resurgent friend Daley, as well as herself.