Young Leeds diver Matty Lee has got his sights set on representing Great Britain at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics. Lee Sobot reports.
AS A multiple junior medallist making fine progress as a senior, Leeds diver Matty Lee had decent Olympic prospects even as things stood in 2014.
And now the sport’s new event has improved those prospects further with success proving a ‘pizza’ cake for Lee and new 10m mixed synchro partner Georgia Ward.
Seventeen-year-old Lee is the latest emerging talent at the all-conquering City Of Leeds Diving Club who were responsible for six of the 12 divers at this month’s London leg of the FINA Diving World Series.
And while the club’s golden boy Jack Laugher took silver in the 3m synchro alongside club-mate Chris Mears – Lee too was celebrating a fine runners-up berth alongside 19-year-old Dive London ace Ward.
The two were thrust together as something of an experiment following this year’s introduction of the new 10m mixed synchro platform event which the duo initially trailed in April in the FINA Grand Prix in Canada.
Yet it’s Tokyo that could now be on the duo’s long term agenda with the event being considered for the 2020 Olympic Games – by which time Lee hopes to have experience of one summer spectacular already in the bag.
The teenager also hopes to board the plane to Rio 2016 alongside James Denny for the men’s 10m synchro event whilst Lee also has designs on individual success.
Yet it could be that the sport’s new event offers his best chance of a medal with Lee admitting he’s found his perfect diving partner in Ward – whom the Leeds ace helps relax before competition by discussing what pizza they will order for tea.
Sat underneath an already impressive collection of medals at his Moortown home, Lee told the YEP: “Things are going really well, especially with this new event, and getting a silver medal at London with Georgia was a bit of a surprise for both of us.
“But I think the main reason we are successful is because me and Georgia have a good bond.
“We are taking it very seriously but I know she gets nervous and I know if Georgia gets nervous she won’t dive as well.
“So instead we’ll talk about what we are going to have for tea and if it’s the last day of competition getting a takeaway pizza – Dominoes of course.
“I just try and take her mind off what we are trying to do and just kind of enjoy ourselves!
“I don’t think there was an actual reason why we were put together – but I guess we are both up-and-coming platform divers.
“We were both going to be at the Canadian Grand Prix and I think Kim White, the team leader of that event, thought ‘why not give it a try?’
“We did and we got some success in Canada and then London again so why not push it to the Olympics?
“The bosses could change their mind and maybe put me with one of the girls who is already at the world series, for example Tonia Couch or Sarah Barrow – just because they are already there.
“But I think me and Georgia have proved that we are good together – we’ve already won medals – so why not?”
Asked if the new event could even bring his best chance of an Olympic medal, Lee admitted: “It could do, it definitely could do because in my other events in London I didn’t get a medal but in this one I did.
“The competition is not going to be introduced into the Rio Olympics but it’s definitely going to be introduced for 2020, so that could definitely be a big medal hope. It means we have got five years to keep improving.”
By then Lee will be 22 – the current age of older brother Tom who introduced his younger sibling to the sport until he called it a day himself when he was 17. Raised in the same Moortown home that they still share with University of Leeds biological department worker dad Tim and community nurse mum Helen, both brothers attended St Matthews Church of England Primary with Matty then going to Carr Manor Community School and Tom to Abbey Grange Academy followed by Leeds City College. Matty is now coming to the end of his first year studying a Level 3 BTEC in Sport at Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College whilst also learning to drive.
Oh, and having the world of diving at his feet with the teenager also possessing the looks that could make him the new poster boy of diving.
Lee, though, says there’ll only ever be one Tom Daley. The six-foot-diver received plenty of wolf whistles upon being named Young Sportsman of the Year at this year’s Leeds Sports Awards but laughed: “I don’t think I will be the new poster boy of diving like Tom Daley! Tom has obviously done a great thing for the sport and it wouldn’t be where it is today and as popular as it is now if Tom was never there.
“But if Tom retired now I don’t think I’d ‘replace’ him, though I wouldn’t mind it at all!
“It was quite funny at this year’s Leeds Sports Awards because my girlfriend was there and she was filming when I went up to get my award.
“Someone was whistling and you could see her go like ‘who’s that?!”
Yet Lee is quickly making a big name for himself – winning plenty of admirers in the process in his bid to make not just Tokyo 2020 but also Rio 2016.
Given his tender years, a place on the plane to South America would be a bonus – and Lee has vowed to celebrate in style should that seat be secured.
Lee admitted: “I hope to go to Rio for the 10m synchro with James Denny – I really hope that will happen and I don’t see why not.
“There’s no other 10m synchro potential pairings apart from me and James in Great Britain and if we show what we are made of and prove that, then why not?
“I’m also hoping to make Rio for the individual and while 2020 is the aim for a medal I’d still love to go to Rio 2016. I want to embrace the challenge.”
Assessing the lure of South America, a place the diver has never been, Lee admitted: “It’s obviously a good place to have the Olympics – it’s a sunny place, it’s very lively and I like their type of music.
“And I think the opening ceremony would be really, really good with all the music and all the festival and dancing stuff. I don’t listen to their music in my own time but when you hear it you want to have a little dance. I promise I’ll do a little dance if I get to Rio!”