By Tom Degun at The Belfry
November 11 - Alexei Evangulov, the British diving peformce director, has hailed Tom Daley (pictured), the world champion, as having a true "gift from God" but warned that it could be wasted if the Plymouth teenager becomes too caught up in a celebrity lifestyle.
Evangulov, who formerly coached the Russian team, joined British diving as performance director in January this year when he took over from Australian Steve Foley and admits that he is delighted with the structure and organisation at his new headquarters and to be working with the precociously talented Daley.
However, Evangulov also admitted that he is extremely concerned about th continually increasing celebrity status of the 15-year-old schoolboy and worried about how growing stardom might negatively affect his star pupil ahead of the London 2012 Olympics.
The Russian said: "While Tom is not doubt one of the top divers in the world, there are about three or four other divers in the world who are also on that same level so success [at London 2012] is certainly no guarantee.
"Victory at this elite level often comes down to very minor details like who has that bit of luck on the day.
"For example, at the recent World Championships in July [in Rome where Daley claimed the gold medal] there were other divers who had as much just as much chance to win as Tom.
"However, Tom was psychologically the strongest and that was what bought him victory.
"Mental strength is one of his strongest attributes and I think he will continue to mature as we approach 2012.
"But having said that, Tom is a truly special athlete and one of the most gifted athletes I have ever come across in all my years in the sport.
"He truly has a gift from God."
But despite Daley’s undoubted talent, Evangulov admits his concerns over the amount of media attention devoted to his star pupil and hopes that it will not create too much of a distraction for him.
Daley already has several endorsement deals and is on his way to becoming a millionaire before he has even begun studying for his A-levels.
Evangulov said: "It [Daley’s celebrity status] is a huge concern for me.
"While Tom is a mentally strong guy, he is still very young and I just hope he will not overly affected by the huge fame.
"He can certainly do very well at the London 2012 Olympics but he must continue to work hard, stay focused and not let celebrity distract him from his task.
"He is a fantastic boy and someone I get on very well with.
"I obviously knew who he was before I joined British diving as he was a big rival so it is now fantastic to work with him as a coach and realise what a special talent he really is."
A former international diver from 1974 to 1980, Evangulov oversaw the management of the Russian diving programme for16 years and led them to three silver and two bronze medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But Evangulov believes that Daley is not the only Briton to look out for at the London 2012 Olympics, he predicted at the UK Sport World Class Performance Conference here.
He said: "We have some very talented youngsters coming through right now and by 2012, they could be real medal contenders for Great Britain.
"Remember that there is not much difference between finishing last and finishing amongst the medals in diving so if they have a good day while others falter, all our divers have a chance of doing very well at the London Olympics.
"But it is obvious that Tom is one of our brightest and brightest hopes for 2012."
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September 2009: Mitcham hoping to be even better by London 2012 to see off Daley
July 2009: Homecoming parade for world champion Daley
July 2009: Daley becomes world champion at age of 15