Tom Daley: The hopes of a nation fall lightly on his shoulders

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Poster boy for the British Olympic 2012 campaign, young sports personality of the year, Olympic finalist in Beijing at the age of 14, hopeful gold medallist, caring son with a honest demeanour and golden smile.

The life of Tom Daley seems just about perfect, doesn’t it?

But life hasn’t all been golden for the young talent. After qualifying for the 2008 Olympic finals he was subjected to bullying at his local school. Shakespeare once wrote, “In time we hate that which we often fear.” For me, this encapsulates the bullies’ fear of the young Olympian.

By making his story known Tom hopes to help others who have also been targets of bullies. This inadvertently improved his public image. When Tom’s father died of cancer in May 2011, somehow he was able to remain focused, upbeat and confident. To only miss one training session is a testament to his inner strength and willpower.

It’s hard not to admire Tom for his courage and cheerful personality. But he has received his fair share of criticism, especially for spending too much time on his image. Could this be the reason for his underwhelming performances in the run-up to the Olympics? Or is he still affected by the loss of his father?

To attribute the dip in form to focusing on his image—or dare I say it to the Tom Daley “brand”—would be an injustice to such a talented and dedicated athlete. Creating a strong brand isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time, strategic thinking, dedication, focus, desire and a bit of luck. Tom Daley’s brand image is centered on effecting a change in mentality around young people and inspiring them to dedicate themselves to doing their best—in school or a profession.

Hopefully Tom’s desire to do his father proud will propel him to victory. Fourth place in Monday’s synchronised competition is a great building block for his solo effort on the 11th August.

It is no coincidence that Tom Daley has become poster boy for the 2012 Olympics. If he wins gold, he will without a doubt “Inspire a generation.”

Max Hurford is a business development associate for Siegel+Gale’s London office.

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