x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Tom Daley ready to rock Dubai ‘concert’ in Fina Diving World Series

The British teenager is in awe of the Hamdan Sports Complex as competition gets underway with a quality field on show.

Briton Tom Daley, 19, is focusing on Brazil after he won a bronze at the London Olympics. Al Bello / Getty Images
Briton Tom Daley, 19, is focusing on Brazil after he won a bronze at the London Olympics. Al Bello / Getty Images

Even with goggles in tow, many of the 70 international competitors who approach the Hamdan Sports Complex this morning will find themselves rubbing their eyes - and not because of swirling desert sands.

For no matter how many times you visit this incredible facility, located just off the underused Dubai Bypass Road and surrounded by nothing but dust and dunes, it never fails to conjure up images of an Arabian mirage.

The arena, which opened in late 2010, is as impressive as it is isolated. When Sun Yang, the Chinese Olympian, visited two years later he said it surpassed Beijing’s iconic National Aquatics Centre. “This facility is the very best,” Sun had said, just months after taking two gold medals in London.

It was China’s Water Cube that held the opening round of the Fina Diving World Series last week and as the field arrives in the UAE today for Round 2, Tom Daley, the precocious Briton, can think of no better venue in which he can look to take centre stage.

“This series is great for keeping you focused, the standard of competition is so high and it is great preparation for major events,” said the 19 year old, who took bronze in Beijing, and is intent on improving on that over the next three days.

“I love being in Dubai, this facility is really cool – it’s set up like a stadium, so it’s like a diving concert.”

Daley will be joined by a field of competitors from 13 countries, including the holders of 11 World Championship titles and eight Olympic gold medals.

Having switched coaches last year and relocated to the English capital, the Team GB diver is determined to use events such as this weekend to help him train and prepare for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“My move to London has been great, I needed to freshen things up with my diving,” he said.

“I’m aiming for Rio, but you need to focus on every event and keep working on improving.”

Of the 42 medallists from the Fina World Championships in Barcelona last year, 36 of them will compete in Dubai.

All but one of the gold medals available at the Spanish event were claimed by the Chinese team, which included Wu Minxia and Shi Tingmao.

Unsurprisingly, Minxia said Rio also figures on her horizon: “I have adjusted my training to concentrate on the synchro events, but will by trying for selection in both individual and synchro,” she said. “My partnership with Shi Tingmao is going well, we understand each other”.

Previous events at the Hamdan Sports Complex have been poorly attended. Organisers have resultantly announced an opening ceremony will take place today presented by local diving club DuDive, while the UAE Swimming Federation will tomorrow run a series of informal competitions.

An international competition held in an unrivalled venue deserves to be witnessed by more than a few thousand empty plastic chairs.

“We witnessed some spectacular diving here last year and are delighted to be welcoming the world’s best back again to what has become one of the city’s iconic landmarks,” said Ahmed Al Falasi, president of the UAE Swimming Federation and chairman of the organising committee.

“The quality of the field is again outstanding and we are looking forward to seeing the very best divers in the world compete over the next three days.”

After this weekend’s round, the series will move to London, then on to Russia and Canada before the final leg in Mexico in June.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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