GB Diving and the 'cunning plan' for Tom Daley

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

British Diving enjoyed its most successful World Cup event of all-time in London last week - but that was not what made the headlines.

There were medals for Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow, as well as Pete Waterfield, while the team secured their maximum allocation of places for the 2012 Olympics.

But it was the comments made by GB performance director Alexei Evangulov comparing Tom Daley to Russian tennis pin-up Anna Kournikovaexternal-link which will be remembered by most.

The Russian had already suggested that Daley's media commitments were hampering his prospects of success this summer, and athletes both past and present have since joined the debate.

We will only truly know if the Russian's concerns are valid when the results are in at the Olympics, but could his actions have been part of an elaborate ploy?

"We are moving forward and we have a very good plan, a very good strategy, and I would say a cunning plan," Evangulov told BBC Sport.

"People ask why he didn't compete in individual events - it was part of our cunning plan, because he is preparing something special and we are going to show it here in London at the Olympic Games."

In his first interview since being escorted away from the media area after the men's 10m platform synchro final, Evangulov back-tracked on his previously aired views about Daley's media commitments and insisted that "injuries" were his only concern over the next five months.

GB's performance director also described Kournikova as his "favourite tennis player" whom he "adored".

"It's not a big concern for us because we have a goal and that is a medal at the Olympics, and when we show to the people that we've got it they will be happy and we will be happy," said Evangulov.

In truth, despite support from British Swimming's chief executive David Sparkes,external-link crisis talks were required between the sport's governing body, Daley's agents and the GB diving management team and Evangulov was instructed to speak no more on the subject to the media.

An additional outcome of the discussions was a minimum two-week ban on any media work.

In a statement released through Professional Sports Group,external-link Daley confirmed that he is due to appear in commercial campaigns before the London Olympics, but added that most of those commitments were completed last year.

"I know that I can perform when it matters and I am doing everything in my power to ensure I have the best chance of success. This is my priority," he said.

Daley, whose father Robert died of cancer in May 2011, added: "My dad always taught me to do my best. I can't control what other people do, I can just focus on my own performance with the support and advice of my coaching team.

"That alone will determine if I deserve a medal. That alone will determine the result."

So was there a genuine concern over Daley's non-diving commitments?

"I think there has been in the past," Andy Banks, Tom Daley's coach for the last 10 years, told BBC Sport.

"The 2009 [world championship] medal took everybody a little bit by surprise and, having been at an Olympic Games and then won the Worlds, the media jumped all over that.

"The media stuff he was doing then sort of overtook everybody. Tom became a poster boy for London, a definite gold medal, but there's no such thing as a definite gold medal, especially in the sport of diving."

Evangulov, Banks and Daley insist that after talks they now understand each other's concerns and are ready to move on.

"It's important for Tom that he does a little bit of media and sponsorship work, because that's how he's going to earn his living, but it's also important that we do absolutely everything that we can do to get him on the rostrum," said Banks.

So can Daley win a medal at London 2012?

"Absolutely, the chances to make a medal are very big," said Evangulov.

The teenager plans to compete individually in World Series tour events in the coming months, which begin in Dubai before taking in China, Russia and Mexico.

However, there will also be attention on many of GB's other divers following impressive performances at the Diving World Cup in London, which helped secure two bronze medals and a full allocation of Olympic places.

"With what's happened here we've demonstrated that the sport has moved on significantly," added Banks.

"For the sport as a whole it's very important. We want to have a big team, to have the British public see we have diving well represented at the Olympic Games and we've managed to ensure that happens."

Evangulov added: "A medal is a minimum, but we can make three [at London 2012]."