Search

Olympics is no place for a 14-year-old

PUBLISHED: 10:37 15 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:04 05 July 2010

DIVING prodigy Tom Daley did what most 14-year-olds do in tense and pressured situations - he threw a bit of a strop.

As the hopes and dreams of a nation rested on his broad but so young shoulders he did what 14-year-olds do under pressure, had a hissy fit at whoever's closest

Only most 14-year-olds do their stropping at their parents in the privacy of their own homes, not at their Olympic diving partner midway through their event.

DIVING prodigy Tom Daley did what most 14-year-olds do in tense and pressured situations - he threw a bit of a strop.

As the hopes and dreams of a nation rested on his broad but so young shoulders he did what 14-year-olds do under pressure, had a hissy fit at whoever's closest

Only most 14-year-olds do their stropping at their parents in the privacy of their own homes, not at their Olympic diving partner midway through their event. Same principle though.

Strops are what 14-year-olds do, Olympic athletes or lazy lump couch slouches. Young teenagers are whirlwinds of hormones, emotions and unpredictability and turn on whoever is closest to let off steam.

When Daley “took a pop” at his partner Blake Aldridge, as Aldridge put it so publicly, for talking on his mobile phone between dives on Monday he was a typical teenage pressure cooker.

But the public fall-out between the 26-year-old Aldridge and his partner half his age confirms what I've always believed - that Olympic competition is no place for a 14-year-old.

Daley should not be in Beijing. He's too young to cope with what representing his nation brings and ride the hype that comes with it. Period. Any 14-year-old would be.

Olympic-level pressure, psychological and physical, is far beyond what a 14-year-old can handle, however mature, precocious or peak physical specimen he or she might be.

At precisely the same time as Daley took his first dive, questions were being asked about the real age of Chinese gymnasts who looked suspiciously younger than the minimum 16-years. Why does the gymnastic event insist competitors have to be 16 while diving is 14? And the difference is?

It's inexplicable and a scandal.

Daley is labelled “boy wonder” and attracts the intense media hype of every child prodigy before him.

And we've all seen the wrecks previous child prodigies have become.

Romanian Nadia Comaneci, a gold medallist at 14 in the 1976 games and winner of five Olympic golds, paid the psychological price and can only now talk about that time of her life. And she's not alone.

Daley seems like a lovely unspoiled boy. Articulate, eloquent, confident. He's the same age as Year 9s who have just taken their Sats - but we say the pressure they endure from national testing is too much.

It's heartbreaking to think of the effects of competing in Beijing might have on this boy's future.

I watched his parents and brothers - the most ordinary family of any top-level athlete I've seen- interviewed in a Beijing restaurant on Monday morning. They looked like rabbits in headlights, petrified and uncomfortable.

And it wasn't just the Chinese humidity. Everything was out of their control. The media circus had turned them into puppets - puppet extras, even - as television companies took over where the coaches, trainers and Olympic officials had controlled their lives before.

The whole family was caught on this rollercoaster of hype for their son - aptly nicknamed “baby” by Chinese fans - and it was long out of control.

Within minutes of finishing last, in the 10m synchronised dive, Aldridge, old enough to know better, made the undignified spectacle of turning on his young partner and blaming Tom's nerves for their medal failure.

That was unforgivable.

The 14-year-old had let his nerves get the better of him, he said. Whatever, as Daley might say.

But it happened - and it happened because Daley is too young to understand his emotions and hormones, let alone know how to control them.

If Aldridge's partner had been an adult and blamed him for their poor performance, would the outcry have been different? No one would have batted an eye-lid.

The nation who looks to their “boy wonder” to bring home a gold next Friday should really be worried sick about the effects of the pressure.

We all have a responsibility to this sweet boy who needs protection and fair encouragement far more than our high expectations and blind adulation.

SALES of UHT milk are soaring, apparently, as people focus their war on waste to milk.

Milk is increasingly expensive and chucking out pints of rancid past its sell-by-date is galling.

The doorstep milkman is also under pressure because his deliveries tend to go off quicker than supermarket milk.

We stopped our doorstep deliveries last year because of the short sell-by dates meaning we ended up tipping much of it down the sink. Many of my friends have too.

Also, I never knew when the milk would turn up. It often arrived at lunchtime, no good to working couples out all day or children who need milk on their morning cereal.

When I was growing up milk was always on the doorstep in time for breakfast.

If the milkman is to survive milk companies must get their act together to save his job and make their milk, which people pay handsomely to have delivered, last more than a couple of days and guarantee regular and reliable delivery times.

ON holiday in Croatia, we were sipping drinks in the sunshine in a medieval town square when a wedding party paraded by led by an accordion player.

They walked across the square to a church where the bride waited outside with her father to walk up the aisle.

The guests were beautifully dressed, the bride looked radiant and the groom his friends smart and spotless.

But what struck me was the simplicity of the wedding. There weren't 300 guests, 16 bridesmaids dressed in a rainbow of tulle treading on a 30-foot train, tiny tot ring bearers screaming their heads off and a cavalcade of vintage cars.

There was the bride, in a simple white dress and posy with natural make up and the biggest smile, and groom and their families and friends, looking relaxed and happy to celebrate their union rather than panicking about the bills to be paid later.

Compare that happy day to the contrived ridiculous pantomimes of weddings in Britain. It made me feel quite ill.

That couple looked so happy and at ease - and I bet there was no chocolate fountain or children's entertainer at their reception.

And I'd lay money on their marriage lasting far longer than most of those in Britain that cost the best part of £20,000 to make.

WHO didn't shift uncomfortably in their seats watching the Olympic opening ceremony and the unveiling of all the fabulous stadia in Beijing?

Not about our feelings about the Chinese regime but about how London will appear to the rest of the world in four years when the curtain goes up on 2012.

It provokes a cold sweat to think about us producing world-class facilities, organisation and spectacle.

But what's worse is thinking of the families having their homes repossessed, scraping and making do, stretching a fiver to feed their families, old people freezing to death this winter because they can't afford obscenely rocketing fuel bills and the rest of the shame in credit crunch Britain while billions are being pumped into turning London into Olympic gold.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Lowestoft Journal. Click the link in the orange box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal