In an exclusive chat with What’s On TV, Britain’s young diving sensation Tom Daley reveals the pain of losing his father and keeping his Olympic hopes on track…
This documentary covers an emotional last two years for you doesn’t it?
“There have been a few documentaries about me before, but I really wanted this one to show what I’ve been through in the past couple of years, before and after losing my dad, as well as how I’m trying to improve my diving for the Olympics.”
There are some very emotional scenes featuring you and your dad, Ro,b who died last May from a brain tumour…
“My dad loved all those documentaries we did together when I was younger, so it gave him a boost in spirits to do this one even though he was very ill. I was terrified before he died, thinking I wouldn’t have a dad any more and he wouldn’t be there to see me at the London Olympics. I’m missing him lots. Every time I talk about him now, though, it’s about something happy because I’ve got some wonderful memories, and I’m using these to inspire and motivate me for the Olympics.”
And how are you coping now?
“I don’t really know how I should feel. I felt bad for carrying on training and diving so much, but I know that’s really what Dad would have wanted me to do. Even at the end when he was so ill, he was always asking why I wasn’t at training. It hits you at different times, like it was strange and upsetting when I had my driving lessons after he died because I knew Dad would have been teaching me.”
The documentary does show how you’re keeping your dad’s ashes close by. Is that helping?
“I have a ‘Dad’ area in my bedroom now, where some of his ashes are kept in a small silver heart. Yes it’s weird, but we didn’t know what to do with his ashes, and I do find it quite comforting. My brothers and my mum all have a silver heart in their rooms, too, with Dad’s pictures either side of it, so it’s like he’s always watching over us.”
Are you in good form in run up to Olympics?
“Yeah it’s going well. I’ve been training five hours a day, for six days a week. I recently dived just three points off my personal best and got a perfect 10 score on my hardest dive – the front four-and-a-half, which you see me endlessly practising in the documentary.
“Qui Bo, my big rival from China, is a fantastic diver, and definitely the one to beat in London. He doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese, which makes it difficult to chat at dive meets, so we sort of just nod and smile at each other sometimes. It’s a friendly rivalry…”
We see a lot of your grandparents in the documentary. It seems they’re a big part of your life too, aren’t they?
“Yeah my grandparents, on both sides, have always been a massive support system for me and the rest of my family. In fact my whole family are right behind me, really wanting me to do well. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Have all your family got tickets to see you dive in the Olympics?
“Erm, most of them, more or less, have… I don’t think it’s all confirmed yet, but most of them will be there to see me dive, and it will be lovely to have them there.”
Tom Daley: Diving For Britain is on BBC1, Monday, July 23 at 10.35pm