LONDON (Reuters) - Not for the first time, British diving posterboy Tom Daley disagreed on Friday with his Russian performance director Alexei Evangulov on handling the pressure of a home Olympics.
This time, however, there was no ill-feeling between the pair.
Evangulov caused a stir before a test event in February when he said Daley was in danger of failing to achieve his potential and becoming the sport’s answer to former tennis glamour girl Anna Kournikova.
He also warned that the teenager’s media appearances could sink his hopes.
On Friday, full of praise, he assured reporters that Daley was perfectly prepared for the competition.
“There is no word pressure in our vocabulary. Responsibility, yes,” he declared.
Daley disproved that, having more problem answering a question from left-field about the importance of personal grooming than in locating the P word.
“Pressure isn’t a bad thing,” grinned the 18-year-old whose face has become one of the most familiar to Britons in the run-up to the Games thanks to media exposure and advertising campaigns.
“I quite like pressure going into a competition...in a competition divers either handle pressure or they don’t. I’ve had pressure going into competitions for a long time now and it’s something I’ve been able to get used to.”
Daley won the 10-metre platform world title in Rome in 2009 at the age of 15 but finished only fifth in Shanghai last year when the Chinese dominated.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he finished seventh in the individual platform and eighth in the synchronized with partner Blake Aldridge, with whom he had a very public falling out over a poolside phone call.
“When you are under pressure in theory it should bring out the best in you because you’ve got that extra adrenaline rush,” said Daley.
The divers entered the village only two days ago and Daley will be competing on Monday in the 10m synchronized with partner Peter Waterfield, an Olympic synchro silver medalist in 2004. He then has a break until the individual competition on Aug 10.
Wearing bracelets with ‘London 2012’ and ‘LOL’ written on them in beads, Daley said the divers would “get away from the hype” by leaving the village after their opening events for the peace and quiet of a training camp in Southend.
Waterfield suggested Daley might also want to break away from him later on as well.
“He is closer to my son’s age than mine,” said the 31-year-old. “I’ve got an 11-year-old boy and even he tells me to go away sometimes so I don’t want to cramp Tom’s style.
“He’s a good-looking lad and I’m sure he’s got loads of girls after him so he won’t want me stood there next to him.”
Evangulov felt Britain could medal in three diving events — men’s platform individual and synchro as well as women’s platform synchro — and said he had been surprised by the media reaction to his earlier comments.
“Tom has a great personality but if you have only personality it is not enough to be a great athlete,” he explained. “You have to work hard. He works hard.
“But you know, I’m greedy for more. I need more...higher, stronger, more.”
Daley said he had learned from Beijing, was more experienced and credited Evangulov for all he had done.
“Alexei is what British diving has needed,” he said.
“He has been able to push all the divers into what they need to do and we are the strongest diving team results-wise this year...I think Alexei has really shaped the Olympic team into something he had a vision of when he joined the team in 2009.”
Editing by Ed Osmond