Tom Daley will take an emotional first step towards the defence of his world 10metre platform title at the British Gas National Diving Championships in Leeds this weekend.
Daley will make his first competitive appearance since the death of his father, Robert, who lost his long battle with brain cancer just a fortnight ago.
The proximity of his tragic loss has meant the 17-year-old will only compete in his world-title winning event after he and synchro partner Peter Waterfield pulled out of Saturday’s team event last night.
“Preparations for the competition have been difficult over recent weeks and the pair will now focus on next month’s World Championships in Shanghai,” a statement from British Swimming read.
“Both Waterfield and Daley are expected to compete in the men’s 10m individual on Sunday.”
The understandable decision will allow Daley an extra day of preparation after he had only travelled to Leeds after attending his father’s funeral on Wednesday.
Daley shared a close relationship with his dad, who was a familiar figure at poolside during his son’s young career, and who had hoped to see him dive at next year’s London Olympics.
After Wednesday’s funeral Daley pledged to maintain a focus on matters in the pool, writing on his Twitter page: “What a day! You are my biggest source of motivation dad! I will make you proud.”
While he has had little time to prepare for this weekend’s meets, he is still fully expected to qualify alongside Waterfield for the right to defend the world title he won in Rome two years ago.
Veteran Waterfield will provide a stern test as the reigning national champion, after injury forced Daley out of last year’s meet in Sheffield, while the 30-year-old also beat Daley at the National Cup in Southend earlier this year.
Daley has, however, shown significant signs he is nearing his best after suffering a lull in form earlier this season as he developed a new list of more difficult dives ahead of next year’s Olympics.
The teenager’s improvement was highlighted when he claimed silver with his highest ever score at the final FINA World Series event in April and, with qualification almost a certainty, his improvement will be a main focus of Sunday’s competition.
Elsewhere at the national titles, which began today, men’s 3m synchro duo Nick Robinson-Baker and Ben Swain will look to re-establish their partnership after injury has undermined their World Championships bid.
Swain missed the best part of a year with a knee injury and only returned to competitive action alongside Robinson-Baker at the FINA World Series event at Sheffield in April.
The duo could only manage last place at the meet, but impressive displays at World Series events before Swain’s injury had marked them as contender to at least improve on their seventh place in Rome two years ago.
In the women’s competition teenager Alicia Blagg’s growing reputation will be put to the test in her home pool.
The 14-year-old, who was England’s youngest competitor at last year’s Commonwealth Games, is the reigning 1m springboard champion but will look to challenge 3m springboard title-holder Becky Gallantree.
The duo are also set to team in the 3m synchro - the event they finished fourth in Delhi last year - as they aim to book a Shanghai place.