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GB’s Olympic reconnaissance mission

9 December 2011

British diver Tom Daley’s showdown with defending Olympic Champion Matthew Mitcham will be one of the highlights of what AOC President John Coates has labelled “the Battle of London” in 2012. But it is a surprise to all that Daley will be on the sidelines as his friend and rival Mitcham makes his return from injury in Adelaide this weekend.

In 2009 Daley became the youngest ever World Champion in any sport. Then just 15-years-old, Daley was the first Briton to become an individual diving World Champion. Since then his profile has exploded.

At 17, Daley is an ambassador of the London Olympic Games and has over 700,000 followers on Weibo (Chinese Twitter). He was given a Mini Cooper for his birthday to learn to drive as part of his role in the 2012 Performance Team, and to mark one year to go until the Games Daley took the first dive at the new Olympic Aquatic Centre which was broadcast live on BBC across the United Kingdom.

Perhaps the home pressure has brought the British Diving Team to Australia for a three-week training camp. But whatever the justification, the trip coincides with one of the biggest events on the Australian Diving Team’s calendar- the 2011 Australian Diving Championships.

Greeted with rain and uncharacteristically grim Sydney weather while training at Olympic Park, Daley and his Team GB training partners will head to Adelaide this weekend where the Japanese and Chinese Teams are also competing at the National Titles alongside Australia’s finest.

On Sunday, Daley will be poolside for his pet event- the men’s 10m platform final, no doubt with a keen eye on his competition, including Mitcham.

Also in the entourage is the UK Herald Sun’s Sports Personality of the Year, Tonia Couch. Regarded as Britain’s best female diving hope, Couch was ninth in the individual and fourth in the 10m synchro event at the 2011 World Championships.

Couch will keep a close eye on the strong Australian women, particularly Beijing Olympians Alex Croak and Melissa Wu who beat the Brits to silver at the 2011 World Championships, with Croak also finishing seventh in the individual event.

The depth of Australian diving is on full show in Adelaide, with 32-year-old mother and three-time Olympian Loudy Wiggins on the comeback trail, along with rising star Brittany Broben, 16, and dark horse South Australian Rachel Bugg who leads the ladies into the 10m final.

Daley and Couch are joined by 16-year-old up-and-comer Jack Laugher, and Chris Mears who literally has Aussie blood running through his veins after a serious training mishap at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival. Mitcham was one of the many Aussies who rallied around Mears whilst he was in hospital. Now Mears is back in the country overcoming his demons.

The Australian Diving Team has medalled at every Olympics since 2000- including a record haul of six medals in 2004 and two at the 2008 Games in Beijing as Mitcham stopped a Chinese clean sweep of gold.

British divers won synchro silver in 2004- their first medal since the 1960s. So it is no wonder our friends from Team GB are out to take a look at Australia’s talent.

Taya Conomos

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