I’ll be honest, I don’t watch a lot of ‘live’ TV. I tend to have a bit of HIMYM on in the background when I come home from work and I’m getting some food and (usually) throwing it down my neck before I have to head back out again, and sometimes if I’m in the house at weekends I’ll have it on while I’m cooking or writing or social media-ing. That’s about it.
So I didn’t have a clue what ‘Splash’ was apart from that I was informed by means of twitter that Rebecca was going to be watching it because she was cooking tea for Simon. And Tom Daley was somehow involved.
I follow a fair number of people connected to Olympic sports – journalists, sports bloggers, coaches, athletes – on twitter. And the other day I saw people explode as the Director of British Swimming (probably the only UK sports organisation that got a lot of criticism from athletes and others before & after the Olympics) criticised Tom Daley for not taking his training seriously and becoming a celebrity before he’d achieved all his success.
I don’t usually read the Daily Mail but I was whooping and cheering on Debbie Daley (Tom’s Mum) as she responded to David Sparkes comments in an open letter in the paper. I was even more pleased to see the number of athletes and coaches – like Pete Waterfield, Leon Taylor, Rebecca Adlington and Andy Banks who were showing their support and concern that Tom was being criticised.
Really? Is this how we repay our athletes?
1. Tom is 18. He’s achieved a great deal more in diving than most British divers already individually and with his partners. He’s been a World Champion, Commonwealth Champion and Olympic medallist. All while doing school, seeing his Dad dying from cancer and now providing for his family. Quite frankly, he could retire if he wanted to. His passion for diving (and let’s be honest, his good looks) have made people want to watch a ‘minority sport’.
2. Most Olympic athletes have been out of ‘full-on’ training and having a well earned rest. Why can’t Tom?
3. I don’t see British Gymnastics criticising Louis Smith for ‘not taking his training seriously’ and doing Strictly Come Dancing when he hasn’t announced retirement or making statements in the newspapers.
I have to confess that I’ll have to use gymnastics as my comparison because I know most about that sport. In the states, the Gold medal gymnasts – and they’ve all expressed a desire to continue in the sport – got to do a major tour which meant they came out of training for several months. They did lots of media appearances and all the rest. Their coaches supported them because they believed they needed to grab hold of the opportunities and enjoy their success. Now Kyla Ross is already back in training and due to compete in American Cup in March. Jordyn Wieber has started to come back into training with the intention of competing at the US Nationals this summer. We don’t see USA Gymnastics saying in newspapers ‘Well, I don’t think the gymnasts should be doing these tours’. They see it as celebrating gymnastics and using it to get more people inspired to take up the sport. To remind the athletes why they love the sport.
It saddens me to ask some of my Guides who inspires them when they tell me of people from reality TV shows like The Only Way is Essex or ’X Factor’. But now my friend’s daughter knows who Louis Smith is because she loves to watch Strictly Come Dancing with her Auntie at weekends. When we found out Beth Tweddle was going to be on Dancing on Ice, I got the chance to show her who Torvill and Dean are too.
We also get to see how difficult a sport diving is. I watched a bit of it tonight and I was impressed by the guts of some of the ‘celebrities’ (most of whom I didn’t have a clue who they were!) trying it out and you realise how much work and risk goes into Olympic sports. And even if it’s not the kind of show I like, I’d rather see something like ‘Splash’ than ‘Big Brother’ or ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ which maybe gets people interested in real sport so we see more Diving, Swimming, Gymnastics, wheelchair athletics or hand cycling and less football and cricket…!
Good on you Tom – for sticking with Diving, for working so hard and being willing to share your love of the sport with others. And Debbie – you and Rob are inspirational parents. Thankfully I know you aren’t the only ones, but I wish there were more like you!