The 23-year-old from Leeds will go for gold alongside Daley in the 10m synchro this summer fresh from their victory in May’s FINA Diving World Cup in the Japanese capital, which doubled up as a Tokyo test event.
Lee now hopes to repeat the feat on his Olympic debut alongside a partner who has three Games’ worth of experience to call upon, which the Yorkshireman admits will feel surreal.
“When I was younger, I was literally a fan of Tom,” said Lee, one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme.
“Everyone was. He was so young and so good, winning World Championships at 14/15, so I’ve looked up to him for ages.
“I have memories of watching him at London and Rio – I can’t remember watching him at Beijing, I was quite young then.
“At London, unfortunately we didn’t get tickets but I was at a friend’s house who lived on my street and I remember it all. It was pretty special to see the crowd.
“To know he’s now my synchro partner is weird. There’s a photo of me and him the first time we met and I’m just a little kid, and he’s still young.
“It’s funny how things have all worked out. Now he’s one of my best mates and my synchro partner.”
Lee began his partnership with Daley in 2018, moving from Leeds to London in the process, and the pair’s success together since – including a European gold and World Championship bronze – has helped install them among the favourites for gold this summer.
Only four years separate the duo, who are able to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support through UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme – and Lee believes their close friendship away from the pool will help fuel their pursuit of glory.
While the Yorkshire ace accepts his partner may dominate column inches, he knows he has a vital role to play if he is to be successful alongside an athlete he describes as a ‘legend of the sport’.
“Some people don’t realise what he’s done,” said Lee, who is hoping to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997.
“He won his first World Championship at 15 and when I was that age, I was nowhere near that sort of level.
“Those sorts of athletes don’t come around often across any sport.
“You have to give him praise for that as it’s crazy what he’s done and he’s still performing really well to this day.”
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