Kickboxing and hypnosis — how Tom Daley fell back in love with diving

imagesTom Hamilton
Rugby Editor


RIO DE JANEIRO — Four years ago Tom Daley wanted to walk away from diving.

“I couldn’t see past 2012 — that was it, that was everything I had been gearing up towards,” Britain’s Daley told a press conference on Thursday.

“It was London 2012, London 2012, and it got to the point where it came and went, and suddenly you are thinking ‘What happens next? I never wanted to step up on a diving board again.”

One of the poster boys of the previous Olympics in his home country, where he won bronze in the individual 10m competition, he had become tired of the sport that had taken him to two Games and instead he wanted to escape from its rigours.


But here he was standing, grinning as he talked to the media in the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park. It was a hubbub of activity behind him with divers of all nationalities going off the different height boards while various synchronised swimmers went through routines in the water to an orchestral version of Smooth Criminal.

Daley, now 22, looked at home; his excitement was palpable ahead of his first dive on Monday. For British interests in the Games as he looks for medals in the men’s synchronized 10m platform and then individual 10m platform, he is right up there but pressure is no longer a problem.

He now embraces it and channels it to help guide his teammates while finding an inner peace coupled with a ruthless focus. This was not the case after London 2012.

He looked outside of diving for a release — January 2013 saw the broadcasting of his television show Splash! in the United Kingdom — but he needed a complete break and the tricep injury sustained in the 2013 Barcelona FINA World Championships gave him the necessary excuse to get away from the sport.

He was given the summer off; he went travelling, enjoyed being a teenager and came back refocused on his sport. He had learned to embrace life outside of diving rather than push it back for fear of it being a distraction.

December 2013 saw him announce his relationship with his now-fiancé, the Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and by the New Year he had moved from Plymouth into an apartment overlooking London’s Olympic Park.

He also changed coach to Zimbabwe-born Jane Figueiredo, bidding an emotional farewell to Andy Banks who had coached him from eight years old, and since Sept. 2014 he’s been teetotal.

The swap to Figueiredo was a masterstroke as she saw that to keep Daley’s active mind focused on diving, they needed to bring in new training methods.

“I’ve been doing all sorts,” Daley said. “Any type of exercise you can imagine I’ve been doing it.

“Jane wants me to do kick-boxing. I do ballet, I do spin classes. We do weight training, gymnastics, trampolining, pilates, yoga, plyometrics stuff. Anything you can imagine we’ve tried, because we want to make sure we’re athletes for not just in the diving pool.”

He also listens to hypnosis tapes for 10 minutes every morning via an app, and has started Spanish lessons. His teammates have noticed a change — Tonia Couch, who was in the Team GB squad alongside Daley in Beijing and London, said: “I wouldn’t even look at him and think there was pressure on him. He’s so cool. He’s diving amazingly and it’s the best I’ve seen him.”

British diving’s performance director Alexei Evanguluv, who was previously critical in 2012 of Daley’s commercial interests, feels the same.

“He’s become such a professional athlete in comparison with the last quadrennial,” said Evanguluv. “He was a young boy; he was more excited rather than professional and focusing. He is readier now than he has ever been before.”

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