With the support of his uncle, a director at building services contractor ABS, 14-year-old diver Tom Daley hopes to make a splash at the Beijing Olympics.
Tom Daley, 14, is Britain’s youngest Olympian. The diving prodigy has qualified for the Beijing Olympics this year in the individual 10m dive competition and the 10m platform synchro competition and is one of the British Olympic hopefuls being followed in the years leading up to London 2012 by the BBC television series Olympic Dreams. He was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year 2007.
Kevin Selvester, 38, is Tom’s uncle and executive director of ABS, a London-based building services contractor specialising in M&E that has sponsored for the past two-and-a-half years.
Kevin: “I first saw Tom dive three years ago in a competition in Luton. It was a great experience, watching a little 10-year-old compete in the under-18 category. It was breathtaking to see this small boy diving off the 10m platform with triple somersaults. I knew he was something special in Melbourne about 18 months ago when he qualified for the Commonwealth Games. Despite his age, he was able to compete and win against the older boys diving in the under-18 category. He came consistently among the top runners and in most cases won a medal.
“Tom’s obviously got a talent, and he’s one of those lucky people who has managed to find something that they excel in. But he works hard at it. He is very focused, he loves going to training, and he’s at an age where he’s not got too many distractions yet. He is so laid back and calm, he doesn’t really get nervous or perturbed by anything.
“Tony Smith [ABS managing director] and I are going out to Beijing to support Tom this summer. We’ll be there watching as he competes. We’ve been supporting Tom since his father was diagnosed with a brain tumour and lost his income when he had to wind down his business to start treatment. I wanted to help the family out with the financial burden of Tom’s almost weekly travel around the country, so that he could fulfil all of his engagements, carry on progressing, and compete on the level that he’s now risen to. I spoke to Tony and we bought a van for the family to travel in and as part of our extended sponsorship we’ve paid for Tom’s family to fly to Beijing, and for all of their accommodation, so they can go out together and support him.
“I think the Beijing Olympics building project will be finished in time. The stadium and the overall design look fantastic. I don’t doubt that London 2012 is going to be a fantastic project too. There’s been a bit of hype and scaremongering about the cost, but I think it gets blown out of proportion and when it’s finished we’ll have some of the best sporting facilities in the world.”
Tom: “I’ve been swimming since I was three, but my mum and dad wanted me to find something that was more of a challenge. It wasn’t that swimming was too easy for me, but I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, so decided to try something a bit more interesting. My dad took me to a public swimming session and I saw a diving lesson in the next pool. I started going on Saturday mornings and just kept on doing it, because I loved it.
The pool in Beijing is phenomenal. It’s the best facility I’ve seen for diving. It makes you dive better when there are nicer facilities
“The board is higher than two double-decker buses, so it’s quite a long way up. I do get butterflies when I’m up there, but it’s so much fun. The best way to describe it is that it’s like going through the motions of being on a rollercoaster – you’re doing loop the loops, and tumbling. You feel relief when you hit the water that you’ve not hit the board or landed flat. You can feel by the angle of your entry if it’s been good, and you can judge how fast you’ve gone in by the splash you make.
“It has been so helpful having the sponsorship from Kevin and his company. Their funding has helped me get to Beijing in February and Mexico a few weeks ago, and I’m going to Nanjing, China, next week for the World Series.
“The pool in Beijing is phenomenal. It’s the best facility I’ve seen for diving, and there are 18,000 seats, which will be the most people I’ve dived in front of. It makes you feel better and dive better when there are nicer facilities, and I’m excited to see how it turns out.
“It will be great to know that I’ll have my family supporting me there. I’m going for the experience, and I’ll just see what happens, but I’m mostly hoping to get practice for 2012.
“My life is pretty normal: I go to school, come home and have some dinner, but then go to training in the evening for three hours. When I’m not at school I do three hours in the morning as well. It can be exhausting, but I enjoy it. I have good sessions and bad sessions, but I always look forward to going. My friends treat me completely normally – you get the odd person taking the mick, but I just ignore it.”
Original print headline - Tom Daley interview: Chairman of the board
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