LEEDS diver Matty Lee could hardly be more glowing in his praise for new 10m synchro partner Tom Daley.
“The Godfather of diving” in the opinion of the Moortown athlete who took gold alongside Daley in yesterday’s London leg of the FINA World Diving Series.
All part of the plan for Lee who made the move from Yorkshire to the big smoke looking to take his career to the next level.
Eight months on, the 21-year-old is loving life in the capital, dining not just at the top table of his sport but also the table at Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black’s house at weekly dinner parties. The Leeds diver even gets on with the couple’s one-year-old son Robbie.
Lee is loving life in London and if current progress is continued, there could be quite the party at Daley’s Monday night dinner club following the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next summer.
Lee, 21, already boasted an impressive haul of medals before taking the decision to leave Leeds and uproot to London last September to become Daley’s new 10m synchro partner at Dive London Aquatics.
A World Championships mixed synchro silver medal plus a gold, two silvers and two bronzes at European level a decent return for the former Carr Manor High School pupil.
Lee, though, having narrowly missed selection for Rio 2016 after injuries, left Yorkshire knowing the new partnership with Daley would offer his best chance yet of Olympic success.
A pairing still in their infancy have already bagged three medals at the sport’s highest level, taking a World Series gold in London yesterday following a silver in Montreal and bronze in Kazan.
With more to come, Lee admits he and his new 10m synchro partner now have every chance of medalling at Tokyo next year, with a blossoming friendship with mega celebrity Daley an added bonus down in London.
With any sport you have got to put the effort in and keep riding it and on the day just give it your all. Hopefully, it will come out your way. We have definitely got the potential to come top three at the Olympics.Matty Lee
“Before we even trained together we didn’t know what it would be like but it really has been quite a natural partnership and we have become really good friends outside of diving which is cool,” said Lee. “The actual synchronicity is almost perfect.
“I am training every day alongside Tom and learning so much from him and it’s inspirational.
“He’s a legend in the sport. He’s not old but he’s the Godfather of diving even though he’s not old, not old at all.
“But he has just been on the circuit for so long as he made it onto the scene when he was really young.
“It’s going really well and we can still do better than what we have been doing.”
Reflecting on the personal side of his move to London – and asked if he was yet on baby-sitting duties for Black and Daley’s one-year-old son, Lee laughed: “Not yet! But me and his baby get on quite well. I make him laugh and I do love going round and seeing him.
“But I don’t think they will trust me just yet to be alone with him!
“Tom holds like a fun Monday club almost every week, like a Monday night dinner club where his friends come round and he makes a three-course meal and I have become really good friends with all his friends.
“Lance and Tom are just really welcoming people, they are always entertaining and at my pad in my apartment I can’t always have a guest round.
“Sometimes it’s just me on my own just wanting to relax but Lance and Tom are always really entertaining and I think it’s an American thing with obviously Lance being from America – it’s rubbed off on Tom!”
On the diving front, Daley and Lee’s excellence has also rubbed off on each other. Competing against the best the world has to offer, the duo took their first gold together in London yesterday, edging out Chinese duo Hao Yang and Junjie Lian.
Lee is naturally optimistic about the chances of medalling at Tokyo next year.
“The World Series is literally the top selected divers in the world competing against each other and we have won a couple of medals so it is really in our reach,” said Lee.
“But with any sport you have got to put the effort in and keep riding it and on the day just give it your all.
“Hopefully, it will come out your way. We have definitely got the potential to come top three at the Olympics.”
Next month’s nationals and July’s World Championships in South Korea are next, where any sort of place on the podium would qualify a 10m synchro spot for Team GB at Tokyo.
Lee will also be competing individually, hoping to finish in the top 12 to qualify for a spot at next year’s Games.
The Leeds diver will still only be 22 by the time Tokyo comes knocking, which would be his first Olympics.
Daley will be 26 and already competing at his fourth Games having stepped out at Beijing 2008 aged just 14 before taking bronze as an individual in the 10m platform at London 2012 and another bronze with Dan Goodfellow in the 10m synchro at Rio 2016.
It was at Rio where Jack Laugher took gold alongside Chris Mears in the 3m synchro and Lee is quietly optimistic that he and Daley can repeat the trick next year – but in the 10m synchro.
Assessing whether even a gold medal could be achievable, Lee replied: “That is the main goal. That’s definitely achievable.
“Jack and Chris have shown us that last time at Rio, the Chinese aren’t unbeatable and, hopefully, we can try and mimic what they did in 2016.”
Thereafter, and whether Tokyo 2020 proves the glorious success as planned, Lee will still have plenty of time on his side.
The diver will still only be 26 by the time the Paris 2024 Olympics comes around, with Los Angeles 2028 also a likely option.
By then, the mixed synchro event in which Lee has been thriving with Lois Toulson in might have been introduced to the Games.
With the mixed synchro not taking place at Tokyo, Lee is now focusing his immediate efforts on his solo diving and, above all else, his blossoming partnership with Daley.
A diver with the world at his feet – but also one with a laid-back attitude and loving life in London.
Lee said: “I am living on my own in Stratford which is really nice.
“I don’t like to live alone but it’s nice to have your own space, you can go to see whatever you want and living so close to the pool is ideal.
“You can walk over there but there’s not really much going on, so I’m just working hard.
“I’m single, but when I pluck up the courage I will go on a few dates!”
Assessing the prospect of sporting dates at not just Tokyo 2020 but also Paris 2024 and LA 2028, Lee smiled: “I’ll definitely try and do that. I don’t think that far ahead –but I’ve definitely got all that in me.”