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Daley set to make splash at Beijing Olympics
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Diving is rarely headline news in Britain but Tom Daley is changing all that.

He will be aged just 14 when he competes in Beijing, making him Britain's second-youngest Olympian of all time.

And while the teenager from Plymouth, southwest England, has repeatedly insisted his main aim in China is to gain experience ahead of the 2012 Games in London, he cannot be ruled out completely as a medal contender.

Even more remarkable than his Olympic qualification at the FINA World Cup in February was his performance a month later in becoming European 10m platform champion in Eindhoven.

Then aged just 13, Daley took on a field that was on average nine years older than he was and included World Cup title-holder Sascha Klein.

The German's victory denied the powerful Chinese team a clean sweep of World Cup gold medals earlier this year.

Beating the man who beat the Chinese saw Daley subjected to a new level of media interest.

But Daley, whose slender frame gives him an advantage over adult competitors because it makes acrobatic spins easier and means he is less likely to make a points-losing big splash on entry, is trying to play down expectations.

"I am really looking forward to the Games themselves, they should be really good fun," he said. "I can't wait to just be in the Olympic village and soaking up the experience.

"Getting a medal is going to be tough, I am going there for the experience, but who knows what can happen.

"The Chinese are the top diving nation, but the only competition that's really open is the men's 10m and hopefully someone like the Germans or the Americans can beat them.

"In London I hope to win Olympic gold, I would love to win any medal."

Daley took up diving aged seven and such was his aptitude for the sport he was British under-18 champion by the age of 10.

Two years ago he finished second in the senior national championships before this year becoming the youngest winner of the British 10m title.

And with synchro partner Blake Aldridge he also won a silver medal at the FINA World Diving Series in Sheffield, northern England, and a bronze at the World Cup.

But there have been some setbacks along the way such as when Daley, amidst concerns about his age, was not selected for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne despite reaching the qualifying standard.

Daley has consistently achieved top-eight finishes in leading world events, but coach Andy Banks is keen to stress how 2012 is the main goal, with anything his young charge achieves in Beijing to be viewed as a bonus.

"We have set out three goals for Beijing," he said. "First, we want to come away happy and proud with his performance.

"Second, as he is only 14, is to have some fun and third is to learn as much as he can do for 2012.

"He is going to be around for a long time, at 14 he has already competed at the top level."

Banks added a medal in China was a possibility but said: "Everyone talks about him getting on the podium (in Beijing), it is not completely impossible for that to happen, but if every diver in the world dives to the best of their ability he will be pushed out of those places.

"But in diving it only takes a little miss to cost you your place.

"By 2012 he will be 18, he will be physically mature, he should be more capable of doing the difficult dives so he can match the top divers in the world for difficulty as well as performance.

It is more than 20 years since Britain's Daley Thompson dominated the decathlon. Double Olympic champion Thompson famously trained on Christmas day because he knew none of his major rivals would be and his young near namesake is doing his best to show similar devotion to his chosen sport.

"Other than interviews, life has not changed much, said Daley. "I have got a bit more attention from girls but there will be no serious girlfriends until after the Games."

(AFP via China Daily July 17, 2008)

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