Lee targeting first Commonwealth gold this summer in Daley's absence

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Lee is hoping to win The Commonwealth Games for the first time this summer, in the absence of Tom Daley, who hasn't competed since winning gold at Tokyo 2020.
Lee is hoping to win The Commonwealth Games for the first time this summer, in the absence of Tom Daley, who hasn't competed since winning gold at Tokyo 2020.

By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat

Matty Lee urged Tom Daley to retire from diving and make way for him to be number one.

Daley has not competed since becoming Olympic champion with Lee in Tokyo, taking a year out of the sport to focus on LGBTQ+ advocacy and business pursuits.

The 28-year-old and long-time coach Jane Figueiredo are understood to have agreed September 1 as a deadline to decide Daley’s future in the sport.

And there can be no doubting Leeds star Lee’s perspective on his best mate’s next steps.

“I always pop the question, ‘what are you doing, what’s your plan?’,” said Lee.

“He hasn’t really got a plan with diving, he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do, which is understandable.

“If I was him, I wouldn’t come back. He’s done everything, why come back?

“He’s achieved everything he’s ever wanted, he’s got every medal possible. Robbie is four now and he’s got all of these flourishing businesses, his knitting company’s going great.

“He hasn’t set anything in stone but he seems to be enjoying the time out.

“It would be great if he came back - obviously - but at the same time, I’ve learned a lot from Tom and it’s now my time to be the leader of male platform diving.”

Daley missed last week’s World Championships in Budapest, the first time in 15 years that a global gathering has gone ahead without its biggest name.

He also leaves a hole in Team England for the Commonwealth Games, where he has won four gold medals and a silver.

The Birmingham spotlight now falls on Lee, who has formed a new partnership with 22-year-old Noah Williams.

“Being Olympic champion makes you one of the big hitters and that’s something I’ve been trying to get used to,” admitted Lee.

“My dreams came true when I won that medal with Tom, but I never used to be the name, the person to look out for or anything like that.

“It’s a new thing for me, but I’m enjoying it. I like to challenge myself and I want the pressure to be on.”

With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Lee hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.

In contrast to Daley, he has plunged straight back into training and competition, returning with individual and synchro gold at May’s British Championships.

Lee did the rounds on his return from Tokyo, appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ in 2021, with post-Olympic blues hitting him hard.

“I’m young in this sport and the result definitely surprised me, so I needed time to celebrate that,” he said.

“It was really nice to go into the Castle and do that fun stuff, but I did struggle quite a lot. Coming off such a high of the medal, the attention, it was a big peak and a big comedown.

“The only thing that got me into the right place and made me happy again was to get back into training.

“The Commonwealth Games is at home and that’s probably not going to happen in my career again, so that’s something I didn’t want to miss out on.”

Leeds-born Lee has won medals at every major other than the Commonwealth Games, missing out on Glasgow 2014 due to injury and competing at Gold Coast 2018 with a niggle.

“I want redemption and I feel like I can do well here,” said Lee.

“I’ve achieved everything I’ve always wanted, so the last thing for me is to get a Commonwealth medal." Lee is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

In Birmingham Lee will line up individually and alongside Williams, with the pair taking silver at the recent World Championships in Budapest.

The pair are actually taking on a more complex list of dives than Lee did with Daley, including the vaunted ‘5225d’, backward somersault two and a half twists, that Daley dreaded.

“Noah is a young lad and we’re good friends,” said Lee. “It’s working well.

“I worked with Tom for three years and we were best friends, it was a perfect partnership.

“It’s about building that relationship with Noah and that trust takes time. We might not be perfect straight away, but I’m feeling confident ahead of the Commonwealth Games.”

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