January 10 - Tom Daley's mother has come out to defend her Olympic diver son after British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes slammed the 18-year-old's television career.
She hit back at Sparkes after he criticised Daley's decision to front the reality television show Splash!, which made its debut on ITV last Saturday (January 5) and won the night's rating battle but faced mixed reviews as some critics called it "TV's biggest belly flop".
Sparkes said that Tom's latest celebrity venture was "putting the cart before the horse" and would act as an unnecessary distraction to his training that could compromise his professional diving career in which he has "yet to achieve his full potential".
However, Daley said Sparkes should in fact be thanking her.
She even went so far as to claim that her son's London 2012 Olympic 10-metre platform bronze medal helped Sparkes keep his job in the wake of the less than positive British Swimming performance review, which highlighted Team GB's shortcomings at the Aquatics Centre last summer – Daley was one of only three British medal winners in the pool.
"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," Debbie Daley wrote in an open letter addressing Sparkes, published in the Daily Mail.
"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?"
Daley also slammed Sparkes' leadership, saying he had demotivated her son and that he had not spoken to him since requesting he attend the opening of a sports park in Loughborough 18 months ago.
"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 – and worse, you do it by giving your opinion without any thought," she said.
"You did not speak to Tom – or his agent – first.
"Is this a good way for a CEO to operate?
"It's also baffling that you openly criticise Tom when you yourself have called in special favours for Tom to make appearances (such as that eight-hour trip to Loughborough in 2011 when I last saw you).
"A leader should motivate his team, not make them think: 'Why do I bother?'
"Did you speak out to protect your UK Sport funding and be seen to do the right thing for them?
"Well, if UK Sport want to demotivate the key person in a sport, carry on David.
"While you may want Tom to do more training, I would like you to do leadership, media and motivation courses."
Debbie Daley went on to emphasise her son's dedication to his sport and explained that he went on to travel to Australia to compete in the FINA World Junior Championships in October, winning two golds, while many of his teammates were taking a break following their Olympic successes.
"For an individual who is normally so motivated, going back to intense training after the climax of the Games was a real struggle," she added.
"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?
"However, Tom didn't want to back out.
"While the competition had no real incentive for him, Tom had made the commitment to his performance director Alexei Evangulov and to British Diving and – despite me trying to convince him otherwise – he got his head down and ploughed on."
Daley later took to Twitter to thank his mother for her support, writing: "My mum is AMAZING :D x"
Sparkes said he had nothing more to add on the matter.
"I understand Debbie's point, but I've got nothing more to say on it," he told insidethegames.
"It's up to Tom, Debbie and his coach to reflect on it."
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January 2013: Alan Hubbard - Daley's Splash! is an unmitigated belly flop