Tom Daley can break China's dominance to win Olympic gold
BRITISH Diving performance director Alexei Evangulov believes Tom Daley can break China’s dominance at this summer’s Olympic Games.
Only three months ago Evangulov publicly questioned Daley’s Olympic credentials, claiming he was the fifth-best 10metre platform diver in the world.
In the months since the Russian has been forced to completely change his assessment after Daley (pictured right) hit career-best form.
After being crowned World Series champion for the first time last month Daley, who turned 18 yesterday, reclaimed his European title in Eindhoven on Sunday night.
The Plymouth diver blitzed his opponents, who included former world champion Gleb Galperin, with a personal best 565.05.
As well as sending a warning to his Chinese rivals it left Evangulov in no doubt that Daley can stand on the podium in the Olympic Aquatics Centre this summer.
“That result will scare the Chinese – it will get them worried,” he said.
“Thomas is diving very well at the moment. With no obstacles in his way he is doing very well.
“In a way he is equal with the Chinese at the moment. Two years ago or even last year I would not say this.
“You remember what I said in the press – he was fifth in the world.
“Now I can say he is top three.”
Daley’s success in Holland, as he reclaimed the crown he first won as a 13-year-old, was his second personal best in as many meets to underline his progress this year.
While Evangulov concedes he still has ground to make up to catch China’s world champion Qiu Bo, whose best is in excess of 600, and Lin Yue, he believes Daley is capable of doing it.
“If you look at his results his personal best, it’s still below the Chinese,” he said.
“But there is one thing that makes me optimistic – the Chinese scores are high but last year and two years ago they were at the same level.
“They are close to 600 but they are not improving. Thomas is getting closer.
“I don’t know if we will have enough time or not (before the Olympics) but he is getting closer.
“We have a plan, we are working towards it.
“Thomas is not even at his best now. I expect that in July he will be better, we are training him so that will happen.”
Evangulov’s comments are in stark contrast to his critical view of Daley before February’s World Cup, when he claimed the teenager was allowing his media commitments to affect his training.
Evangulov likened Daley to tennis’ most high-profile fallen star Anna Kournikova and claimed his Chinese rivals trained “three times harder”.
“There are no obstacles at the moment, Tom is fully focused on his job,” said Evangulov, who despite his renewed optimism still sounded a note of caution.
“We must remember though that it will not be easy for Thomas.
“Qiu Bo is one of the best ever divers technically on the platform.
“I am also hearing rumours that Lin Yue beat Bo at the recent Chinese trials. They are very good.”
Daley has, however, beaten Bo before – most notably when he became Britain’s youngest-ever world champion as a 15-year-old in 2009.
Three years on, and as Daley enters adulthood, Evangulov believes he has developed into a world-class operator – even if the “cute boy” he believes attracted higher scores from some judges is now gone.
“His body has changed dramatically over the past two years. He was a little boy. A cute boy. Sometimes the judges treated him as a cute boy,” Evangulov said.
“Sometimes they gave him a little bit higher because it was unusual – a 15-year-old world champion. But now he has absolutely matured man. He’s a strong man – he’s absolutely different.
“There’s a different attitude to him now from the judges and the experts.
“But that is not a bad thing, because now you see him and how strong he is mentally and physically. He is very strong. You have to be if you want to win an Olympic medal.”