Tokyo Olympics: Leeds pair Matty Lee and Tom Pidcock revel in their golden moment
In the space of 30 minutes yesterday morning, the White Rose county crowned two new Olympic champions on an historic day in which Britain won three gold medals and two silvers.
Matty Lee a 23-year-old diver from Leeds won gold alongside Tom Daley in the men’s 10m synchro shortly before 8am UK time, (4pm Japanese time).
And then half an hour later Tom Pidcock, 21, another Leeds Olympian, burst clear in the men’s mountain bike cross-country to claim an Olympic gold medal.
Earlier in the day, Adam Peaty delivered the gold many expected in the 100m breaststroke, while Alex Yee started the day with a silver in the triathlon and Lauren Williams took a medal of the same colour in the -67kg category of the women’s taekwondo to complete a memorable stretch.
As days in British sport go, it was right up there as one of the most successful in history, second only perhaps to ‘Super Saturday’ at London 2012 when the host nation won six gold medals.
From a Yorkshire perspective, the medals won by Lee and Pidcock, coming on the day that Jonny Brownlee narrowly finished off the podium in the triathlon, confirms the passing of the torch from the ‘teens’ to the ‘twenties’.
It also shows that in two men at the start of their Olympic careers, the recent legacy built by the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Alistair Brownlee and Nicola Adams is in safe hands.
Lee’s victory was one to tug at the heart strings, given it was accomplished in the company of Tom Daley, a young man whose journey to four Olympics has been chronicled and scrutinised like no others since he burst on the scene as a 14-year-old bound for Beijing in 2008.
“To be able to put the well-deserved gold medal around his neck was really special to me, and I’m very, very proud of him,” said Lee, who is only three-and-a-half years Daley’s junior, but almost a lifetime apart in terms of Olympic experience. “In October 2018 I moved my whole life to London from Leeds.
“I was away from my family and friends, everyone, I had nothing really in London.
“I owe a lot to this guy (Daley) because he’s taught me a lot. We are best friends and we spend a lot of time with each other. I had no friends in London and this guy introduced me to his mates and his family.
“Obviously it’s my dream to be an Olympic gold medallist, but it’s great to be able to have won that with Tom.”
Daley and Lee went into the Games as recently-crowned European champions but even then they were not favourites, given the China’s Yuan Cao and Aisen Chen were defending champions.
But the British pair started well and just got stronger and when the Chinese duo executed a poor dive by their standards in the fourth round, it left the route to gold open for Daley and Lee.
They scored 93.96 in the fourth round with an impressive backwards three-and-a-half somersaults pike to take charge.
A fifth dive – a reverse three-and-a-half somersaults tuck – earned 89.76 points to put the pressure on China ahead of the final round.
The British pair were 1.74 points ahead and an impressive forward four-and-half somersault tuck earned them 101.01 points and China could not catch them with their final effort.
Daley, who underwent knee surgery in June, said: “To finally have this gold medal around my neck after so many...I’ve been diving now for 20 years and this is my fourth Olympic Games and lots of people probably would have counted me out of this Olympics being the older person but I’m in the best shape physically and mentally.
“With the support of Matty coming into this competition and the way that we’ve been preparing, I think we’ve just had that unstoppable mentality this year.”
Unstoppable would be a good way to describe Pidcock’s victory in front of spectators in Izu.
The prodigious talent who has already won world cyclo-cross titles and acquitted himself comfortably to life in road racing’s pro peloton, was so far in front he even had time to grab a union flag as he crossed the line.
His margin of victory was 20 seconds over world No 1 Mathias Flueckiger – the only man who had looked capable of staying in touching distance once Pidcock had made his move midway through the 28.25km race.
Pidcock said: “It’s nothing like any other race. The Olympics just transcends any sport. You compete and represent your country and everyone in your country is behind you, no matter in what sports they like. It’s just national pride, it’s unbelievable.”