Olympic Games - Tom Daley's 'amazing' mum hits back at Sparkes

Tom Daley has praised his "amazing" mum after she penned a stinging open letter to the British swimming chief who criticised her son's media work.

Diving - Brave Tom Daley deserves to be happy after tragic death of father

View photo

Tom Daley - Splash (ITV publicity photo)

David Sparkes lashed out at the 18-year-old for acting as a mentor on new Saturday night reality TV show Splash and not concentrating fully on his diving.

"You can rest assured the next Chinese diving superstar will not have such distractions from training," Sparkes told the Daily Mail.

However, Daley's mum Debbie has published a letter in the same newspaper telling Sparkes: "I find it incredible that you want to criticise him so publicly, when he does so much for your organisation and for sport in the UK "

Debbie decided to put the letter in the newspaper as: "Since the media is your preferred method of communication, I thought that I should do the same.

"You did not speak to Tom - or his agent - first. Is this a good way for a CEO to operate?" asked Debbie.

"As far as I'm aware, Tom was one of the few major success stories for British Swimming this summer... and possibly one of the athletes that helped you retain your job. Others say that your performance was the worst of any CEO in British sport. Surely you should be thanking Tom and showing your support and gratitude?"

On Thursday afternoon, Daley tweeted: "My mum is AMAZING."

He won a bronze medal at London 2012, the only diver to medal for Team GB, while Britain won just three medals (two bronze and one silver) in swimming.

At the Beijing Olympics Britain won six medals.

Debbie went on to explain how Daley went straight back to training after the Olympics to prepare for the Junior World Championships where he won two gold medals.

"Everyone else was taking long holidays, partying, celebrating exams, while Tom had to get straight back to diving. You must remember what you did the summer you were 18 years old? We even discussed with (his coach) Andy the option of him backing out of the competition. I was concerned Tom would crumble as the impact of the previous 24 months finally came on top of him. "

Daley also found time to secure grade As in all his A-levels last summer and all this came just over a year after the tragic early death of his father.

View photo


"Perhaps you need to be reminded that not only was Tom taking on the pressures of the biggest sporting event in his life, not to mention a home Games, but during this period he also lost his biggest supporter, his dad," Debbie reminded Sparkes.

"My bond with my son has always been strong but Rob was Tom's rock, friend and role model; he would be spitting mad if he had read your media attacks on him over the past 12 months and would have given you a franker view than mine."

Debbie said she also would not want her son to follow the lead of the Chinese divers.

"The Chinese comparisons really annoy me - and I know that they annoy Tom. He was not born in Beijing. He was born in Plymouth. I saw a documentary a few years ago which showed the Chinese boot-camp style of training in sport. This is not Tom. He would not function if his life was just diving."

She concluded: "While you may want Tom to do more training, I would like you to do leadership, media and motivation courses. Tom may benefit from some UK Sport funding but he has to fund his own life from sponsorship and media work. When the Splash! opportunity came to us, it was a completely appropriate one for him and we also believed that it would help our sport long term - there is not a lot of diving or swimming for that matter on television, David. That is meant to be your job.

"Tom, though, is just giving some advice and encouragement - and having some fun. I am glad that he is doing Splash! even though I don't like to read negative reviews of the show. Those opinions, though, I can handle. Yours I would like you to manage given your role within the sport and the impact that it is having on my son."

View comments (1190)