Tom Daley's mum hits back at swim boss David Sparkes
The mother of Olympic medallist Tom Daley has fired a furious broadside at British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes after he criticised the diver's media commitments.
Mr Sparkes said Daley's commercial projects risked damaging his chances of winning an Olympic gold medal in the future. His comments followed the launch of the 18-year-old's reality show Splash!
But the criticism sparked an angry response from Debbie Daley, from Plymouth, who said her son's bronze medal at London 2012 had helped keep Mr Sparkes in his job.
"As Tom's mum, I take a lot of pride in the way he handles himself," she wrote to Mr Sparkes. "I am sure that he will make mistakes along the way, but to date he is doing a lot right.
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"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.
"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.
"His target was to achieve a medal and he delivered, becoming the first British individual diver in 52 years to get an Olympic medal.
"Not only this, but immediately after the Games, when most athletes were enjoying themselves, Tom went back to intense training for five weeks to prepare for the junior world championships."
Mr Sparkes's comments echoed the warnings made by British Diving performance director Alexei Evangulov early last year about Daley's media and sponsorship commitments, which he felt would affect the diver's chances at the 2012 Olympics.
Daley won bronze in the men's 10m platform in London, behind American David Boudia and Qiu Bo of China.
Referring to Splash!, Mr Sparkes said the next Chinese diving superstar "will not have such distractions from training".
But Mrs Daley replied: "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.
"He is very bright, works incredibly hard and over the last ten years has given up so much to focus on his 2012 Olympic goal. I know that he will do the same for 2016."
Mrs Daley said her husband Rob, who died of brain cancer in 2011, would have been "spitting mad if he had read your media attacks on (Tom) over the past 12 months and would have given you a franker view than mine".
She added that negative reviews of Splash! were easier to handle than Mr Sparkes' criticism and asked him to "manage" his comments.
British Swimming did not directly respond to Mrs Daley's comments but said it would "continue to work with Daley's family, agent and coach in ensuring he achieves his goals and potential".