Gallantree happy to take big sister role for Blagg

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ALICIA Blagg is the second youngest British competitor at these Games by just seven days.

Gymnast Rebecca Tunney scoops a dubious honour that elevated Tom Daley into the media spotlight four years ago in Beijing.

That interest in Daley has only increased in the intervening years, forcing his coach to send him out of the Olympic Village between competitions over the coming weeks, in an attempt to keep a lid on the pressure.

For her part, Blagg, 15, who comes from Wakefield and is one of five divers representing the City of Leeds club at London 2012, has managed to avoid the attention that fixed so firmly on Daley.

But impress alongside her clubmate Rebecca Gallantree and it might all be about to change.

The pair go in the 3m synchro tomorrow afternoon.

If Blagg is the young up-and-coming talent – one of many trained at the John Charles Aquatics Centre – Gallantree is the experienced campaigner.

London 2012 is her second Olympics. She also competes in the individual 3m springboard later next week.

“I’m like a big sister to Alicia,” says Gallantree, 27.

“It’s a very good working relationship that we have.

“If she makes a mistake she’s big enough to take it on the chin, and if the shoe’s on the other foot and it’s my fault then I take the responsibility.”

It is quite remarkable to think the two have been working together for three years, since Blagg was 12.

But their relationship is one that encapsulates all that is good about the British squad as a whole.

“There’s always a great team feeling within Team GB,” said Gallantree.

“We all say hello to each other, you might never have met them before but you see them in the lift and you have a chat.

“It’s a really nice feeling and it’s great to feel part of a big team.”

And the star status of Daley, has not led to jealousy among the rest of the diving squad.

Gallantree added: “Tom has brought a lot of great press to the sport, everyone recognises diving a lot more now than they used to which is great for everyone.”

Daley’s first chance will arrive in Monday’s 10m platform synchro alongside veteran Pete Waterfield.

After that he faces an 11-day wait to resume competition in the individual platform event he was crowned world champion in as a 15-year-old.

In between time, British Diving performance director Alexei Evangulov has ordered Daley to leave the Olympic Village for six days.

The Plymouth diver will instead decamp to a training base in Southend, where the 12-strong British dive team were stationed for the past fortnight, to recharge his batteries ahead of the individual platform.

“From my experience working with the Russian team we always try to escape from the Olympic environment because you can be exhausted emotionally,” said Evangulov.

“You can be good physically but emotionally you can be tired. That’s why we decided to get a rest from the Olympic environment – we needed some solitude.

“That’s why we are going for five to six days. Southend is the best base and diving facility in this country.

“Tom prefers his home at Plymouth but it is a bit far. Southend is just one hour drive, that’s why we picked this base.”

It is a scenario Daley appeared to fully embrace in yesterday 
morning’s press conference, which was attended by Evangulov and his synchro team-mate Waterfield.

The relationship between Daley and Evangulov has been the point of much debate in the past six months after the Russian publicly questioned Daley’s ambition in February.

Evangulov claimed Daley’s Chinese rivals “trained three times harder” before likening him to fallen-star tennis player Anna Kournikova.

There was no sign of any unease between the pair yesterday and Daley was content to sing the praises of Evangulov’s preparation plans, which includes allowing him to attend last night’s Opening Ceremony.

“I’ve been talking with Alexei and our coaches and the whole team and they came to the decision that the psychological benefit of going to the Opening Ceremony and seeing the applause and everything that is going to happen outweighs any reason not to do it,” he said.

“I really can’t wait to walk out in front of those thousands of people that are going to be in the stadium and to know they are all supporting Team GB is going to be great.”

Meanwhile, Nick Robinson-Baker, the City of Sheffield diver, has hailed the atmosphere in the Olympic Village.

Robinson-Baker, 24, who competes in his second Games when he takes to the aquatics centre on Wednesday for the 3m synchro final, said: “I walked into Beijing four years ago and felt like I was an Olympic athlete.

“But I walked into the village in London a couple of days ago and I felt like it was my village.

“We have 541 athletes, it’s big and it feels like it’s yours for the taking.

“There’s people walking round going ‘wow you’re in GB kit’, you’re walking around the London Olympic village in Team GB kit. It’s just such an honour.

“To get to an Olympic Games as an elite athlete is an honour, but to have a home Games in your back yard is amazing.

“To dive in front of a home crowd of around 50,000 cheering for you is out of this world.”

Devonian Robinson-Baker competes alongside Chris Mears, who he won the British title with for a third successive time last month in Sheffield.