At 15 one young man has lived a life under the spot light already. He has performed under intense pressure, stepped up to the challenge and come out the other side a shining example of what true qualities of leadership and commitment can produce. Tom Daley is a British phenomenon at such an early age. You can stop anyone in the street and ask them who Tom Daley is and they will be able to tell you that he is the youngest member of the British Olympic Team, a diver, and competed in the Beijing Olympic Games. But that is not all that Tom Daley is. Oh no, for if we take a look at the Tom Daley that we are aware of through press stories, following him on Twitter and the gossip we find on various other social media sights, there is a whole lot more to this new emerging icon of British Sport.
From as young as 10 Tom has been a champion, and he has slowly matured into a remarkable young man. With the dedication and focus of a man twice his age, Tom committees to a practice regime that would make even the best of us cringe at the thought. Spending in excess of 24 hours a week in various measures of training, the young champ also commits to a full time education program, being a brother, friend and even has to co-ordinate with a diving partner for his competition as a synchronised diver. Dedicated to a careful diet of balanced food that most teens would not just shy away from, but more probably turn their nose up at too, it is uncommon to hear any word of complaint or irritation from Tom. He happily takes on the pressures of the task at hand and applies himself fully.
His commitment has produced result after result to which this young individual should stand tall and proud. Yet, you watch Tom and he is not haughty or full of himself in anyway. Yes he is an excitable young teen who loves his life, and takes well to the media spot light, but it is clear to any casual observer, that Tom is merely enjoying his time in the spot light, and why not? After all he has worked bloody hard to get there. For someone that has brought credit back to the British Diving team, I for one believe that we should give Tom a lot more credit for his efforts. He is an ambassador of what is achievable for even the youngest competitor, and he portrays this success around the world. I believe he is a wonderful example of what time, effort and true commitment to your dream can achieve for anyone willing to work hard to reach their goals.
Yet as popular as he is, and as well recognised as his success has made him, Tom is still a humble and very likeable young guy. He’s had his ups and downs, and is a credit to himself in the way he has handled the things that would probably make many of us crack up. A firm example of this was the way in which he handled being bullied at school. For no fault of his own, Tom became the target of jealousy, and quickly mob mentality turned him into a target of both mental and physical bullying at a time when he must have felt really alone and confused at what to do. It is common for a victim of bullying to associate themselves with blame and retract inwards within themselves as they struggle to deal with the issues surrounding being bullied. It is not uncommon for them to lash out and become totally unbalanced in their reaction to even the smallest issue. Yet Tom managed to find it in himself to remain focused under the pressure of forcing himself to go to school and face the taunts of his bullies while remaining totally committed to his diving and not only continuing to progress, but to do well while doing it. The value of his career as an international diver meant more to him than lashing out at his tormentors, which in his physical condition Tom is more than capable of doing, and inflicting some fairly potent damage if he chose too, but yet again the young protégé is a credit to himself. He sort the help of his parents, and when it became unbearable he changed schools. The dynamic of living under such uncomfortable circumstances yet still excelling as an individual is clear representation of a leader in the making.
Tom is well grounded in a network of support and has a loving family supporting him all the way. Clearly a very proud dad, Rob Daley follows his son across the globe as he competes. Apparently often in tears at the joy of his sons success, Rob and his wife Debbie are also a credit to how to bring up a kid in such a pressure filled environment. They obviously provide guidance, love and support to Tom, and have brought him up to be a fine example of the potential of youth in the United Kingdom where so often we see the bad side of youth who are driven to crime and destruction through boredom and lack of a support network to help them mature and grow. Tom’s parents have given him the room to grow, but have also taught him the lessons he needs to be the remarkable young man he has become. They are a perfect example of the joys of strong family bonds and that under any circumstances you can live a good life, be morally upright, and lead by example.
Despite living with an A list celebrity, the Daley family still seem to be firmly rooted in reality, and while Tom is frequently centre stage in the media lime light, at no other time do the family make use of this fact as we so often see celebrity milking their exposure in the UK. It is refreshing to see that the media attention, and the celebrity status that has come along with being a voice for British Sport in the current climate, has not warped Tom out of his normal down to earth approach to things, and he has not become a slave to the world of celebrity hype. Agreeably it is early days yet, and huge endorsement contracts could be making their way in Tom Daley’s direction, but let’s hope that time will prove me right in thinking that Tom will always be the quietly mature example of a true sporting legend.
2009 has already been a golden year for Tom. He has become the youngest person to ever win the world championships, and the first Briton to ever reach this landmark achievement. At only 15 I would suggest that we have many years of pleasure in watching this young superstar of the water grow up and take shape as a Premier British Sporting Legend. Perhaps saying this puts added pressure on Tom at a time when he is already under intense pressure to perform and do well, but it would seem that Tom thrives on reaching his ultimate goals in life, and as he says he wants to achieve all he can as a diver. I feel we are in for a treat watching as he continues to travel the world, competing in an arena that I am grateful to say we at last have a British presence in. For too long Russia, China and the US have dominated this sport. With the London 2012 games just around the corner, we are set for some of the most amazing sporting achievements and it is the likes of Tom Daley that will inspire a whole nation of young people to apply themselves and follow in the footsteps of my favourite Olympian. I will carefully continue to watch Tom as he continues to build up his medal tally, and places himself even more firmly in our minds and hearts as a leader and icon of British Sport.