For all the success Tom Daley has had in diving, the 16-year-old knows that things do not happen by chance. To succeed, you must not only know what you want but hone your targets from an early age.
As we sit by the Plymouth swimming pool where he has just finished another training session, he explains how he sees his life panning out.
“Divers normally fall apart between the ages of 28 and 32,” he tells me. “When I get that old, I’d like to go into the media, become a TV presenter, something where I can enjoy my job every day. If that fails, I’d like to go into languages.”
Even his choice of Spanish, one of his three A level subjects, shows how Daley has worked out what can best help his diving career.
“Yes, I like the sound of Spanish,” he adds, but then confesses: “Diving is quite big in Mexico. Every year we have a competition there — I was in Mexico for the World Series — so it would be quite handy to do interviews in Spanish. We don’t very often go diving in France or Germany, so Spanish was the logical choice.”
While Phillips Idowu, Christine Ohuruogu and Lisa Dobriskey decided Delhi was one Commonwealth Games too far, Daley saw it as an opportunity not to be missed.
He had been heavily involved for months designing his website and Daley arrived in India with a hand-held camera ready to bombard the site with pictures of his time at the Games.
“Wherever I go in Delhi, I shall capture images,” he says. “I shall be sending back lots of pictures, lots of videos, lots of general updates of how my competitions are going.
“As soon as I’m finished, there will be a video up there. I’ve made sure my website is video-based so it reaches out to more of my age group.”
And while Daley says he does not have time for a girlfriend, he always has time for his daily tweets.
He adds: “When I’m at school, I tweet about what lesson I’m in, whether I’m at training, anything really. I just like doing it because it’s good to connect with the fans.”
The one thing Daley will not tweet about is his father Rob’s illness for which Daley senior is undergoing chemotherapy.
Long before our interview, Daley’s PR minders had made it clear to me that the illness was one subject that I could not raise.
Rob hovered round as we talked and, at the end, asked me to send him a copy of the Evening Standard. “I have got all his interviews mounted up,” he told me proudly.
His family clearly means a lot to Daley although he admits his two younger brothers, William, 14, and Ben, 11, can be “very annoying”.
He adds: “They have been a big factor in my success, always supporting me. My dad comes away to most competitions and that’s been really helpful. They bring me down to earth.
“If I was to come home from a competition and mum would say, Oh didn’t Tom do well?’ they’d be like, No!’ They take the Mickey and say that diving is boring, diving is rubbish.”
Bullying problems at Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth, where Daley was called Speedo Boy’ and threatened with his legs being broken, made his father move him to Plymouth College.
Now Daley has nothing but praise for his private school mates.
“Everyone treats me like a normal person,” he says. “But then I don’t talk about diving at all at school. I keep diving, media and school, each of these worlds, very separate, so that I can be as normal as possible.”
It has not always been possible to do so. During the Beijing Olympics, he had a public row with Blake Aldridge, when his then diving partner phoned his mother during the competition.
After Aldridge missed the British Championships because of an injury sustained in a nightclub, Rob made it clear that his son should make a change and in April 2009, he teamed up with 18-year-old Max Brick.
“The whole thing got blown way out of proportion,” insists Daley. “We were at the poolside and Blake just made a call. I don’t know what my father said because, in the Olympic Village, it’s like being in the Big Brother house. You don’t know what’s going on outside.”
And the arrival of Max has brought success with Tom winning the FINA World Championships in Rome in 2009. “Beijing was a disappointment for me,” he admits. “I went there with the mindset that I was going for the experience.
“The competitions that I did after that, I went with a different mindset — to win. From then on, I dived a lot better and, in 2009, I had a rivalry all year with the Chinese Qiu Bo.
“At the Junior World Championships I was half a point behind Qiu Bo. But he was the one I beat in the World Championships, coming out on top in the one that really mattered to me.”
Despite this victory, Daley is well aware that the Chinese divers inhabit a very different world.
“Diving in China is like football in England, there’s five diving pools in each city. It’s very strange when you go there, you are treated like a footballer in England. But it’s also quite cool.
“They used to keep themselves to themselves but now they are getting a lot more smiley, younger, happier and they do speak English.
“I speak a little bit of Chinese: Hello, how are you?’, that kind of chat. The Chinese train about eight hours a day and they don’t go to school.
“They have school three mornings a week, whereas I have to go to school full time and I only get to train in the evenings and one morning a week, that’s about 26 hours.”
Daley cannot forget his school work, even when he is competing at the Commonwealth Games. He says: “Both at our training camp in Leeds and in Delhi we have been getting tutoring, which is the first time it’s happened.
“We get an hour before dinner, an hour after dinner and I’ve got loads of homework: Spanish, photography and maths. So I just have school books with me, no leisure reading.”
Daley is all too aware that diving is not quite like most other sports. He says: “You’ve got seven judges and it’s decided on their opinions, quite a weird thought compared to sports like football where, if you score a goal, you score a goal.”
A similar scoring system in gymnastics has led to many allegations of corruption — so does Daley ever worry that the judges may be got at?
“The seven judges in the final are not allowed to be from the same country as the finalists,” he explains. “They take off the two lowest and highest marks so you are left with the average and it works out quite fairly.”
But has he ever felt unfairly treated?
“Sometimes. You see things the judges don’t or they see things that you don’t, so it could work in your favour or against you. But that’s what happens when you’ve got an opinionated sport.”
Not that Daley has ever had any regret in taking up such an “esoteric” sport.
He says: “When I was younger, I did five different sports: judo, squash, tennis, swimming and diving. I enjoyed diving the most, it was the one that I was best at. I did try football at school but I could never kick a ball in a straight line. I’m not very co-ordinated with that kind of stuff.”
Such is his lack of interest in the national sport that he does not even support a football team. Daley hopes that the 2012 Olympics will correct our football bias. “Everyone is going to get behind London 2012 and I think it will get a lot more people involved in Olympic sport. Maybe one of them could overtake football in England — you never know.”
Daley is realistic enough to recognise that the sport will not be diving because “there aren’t enough diving pools in the UK for that”.
Yet, for all his diving proficiency, Daley admits that he experiences fear as he gets up on the board.
“I still get scared when I go up there. You get the adrenaline pumping and the butterflies in your stomach. It is quite scary. You just have to go up there and give it your all, make sure that you are not thinking too negatively because, if you do, it will go wrong.
“It is quite a cool feeling when you get a good take-off, feel you’re in good shape, hit the water with a fine dive and get sucked under with no splash.”
Daley hopes his challenge in Delhi will mean gold when the 10metre competition gets under way next week but, despite the absence of the Chinese, he cannot be sure.
He says: “There are other top divers. Matthew Mitcham, the Olympic and World Cup champion, will be there from Australia.
“It’s going to be very tough. Any medal would be great but just to have a good competition would be nice.”
And, whatever happens, Daley’s video diaries will record all the action on his website.
Follow Tom Daley’s progress in Delhi every day at www.tomdaley.tv
Tom is videoblogging his experiences right up to the London Olympics in 2012. He also manages his own Facebook page (Tom Daley.tv) and Twitter (TomDaley1994)