When the pair took gold within the males’s synchronized 10m platform in July, it was the primary Olympic medal of Lee’s younger profession and the third for Daley, who additionally went on to win a bronze within the 10m platform in Tokyo.
For Lee, a whirlwind of celebrations and media alternatives — in addition to a vacation — adopted; the fun of successful Olympic gold hasn’t light simply but, however the return of his unforgiving coaching routine is bringing him again right down to earth with a large splash.
“I’m nonetheless discovering it very bizarre to be again at coaching. I am like: ‘Do I actually wish to be right here? That is actually arduous,'” says Lee.
“Preseason is not straightforward in any sport. It is the place you get again into health. It is grotesque, however I simply know I must get by way of this bit, get again in form, then I am going to really feel good after which I can set targets. So I am not speeding to any conclusions.”
Added to the problem of preseason is that Lee is doing all of it with out Daley by his aspect.
The British pair had educated and competed collectively for 3 years main as much as the Olympics, forming an unbeaten partnership all through 2021.
Nevertheless it’s unclear whether or not the duo will proceed to compete collectively, with Lee saying he would not wish to “pester” the 27-year-old Daley to decide whereas he is in North America together with his husband, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
“I cherished coaching alongside Tom for the previous three years and it feels actually flat with out him,” Lee provides.
“We get alongside so nicely, and we have now actually educated collectively for the previous three years. Every thing we do, we do it collectively. As a result of clearly with synchro, we’re making an attempt to construct that bond the place we do not have to consider being in sync, it is all very telepathic.”
Guarding the gold medal
In between coaching, house-sitting duties and discovering a brand new place to hire, Lee provides that he is nonetheless on “cloud 9” from the Tokyo Olympics — his debut Video games.
And whereas most of his medals are saved in a cupboard at his mother and father’ house, the Olympic gold hardly ever leaves his aspect.
“I really feel prefer it simply must be wherever I’m,” says Lee. “I let folks contact it, I let folks put on it, I let folks maintain the load, however I’ve at all times received a superb grip on the ribbon itself as a result of in the event that they drop it, then I am going to catch it. So it is but to get a dent on it.
“I used to be instructed by Tom — as a result of clearly he is received many medals and plenty of medals of his have been dropped — and he says that each chip tells a narrative, so not to take a look at it in a detrimental approach, extra a constructive, cool approach.”
‘I am unable to consider I did that’
With the intention to win gold within the males’s synchronized 10m platform, Lee needed to maintain his nerve as the ultimate went right down to the wire.
Daley and Lee led the Chinese language pair of Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen by lower than two factors forward of the final spherical. When crunch time arrived, they claimed the gold with a flawless, four-and-a-half somersault dive.
It was Britain’s first ever gold medal within the occasion and ended China’s successful run that stretched again to 2000.
“It is fascinating to look again on it,” says Lee. “Sometimes, I come throughout a video I have been tagged in on Instagram or no matter, and it is my dive or my response with Tom. And I am unable to consider I truly did that.
“I’ve had some crap moments within the sport the place I’ve simply bottled it — final dive, I’ve simply not completed what I’ve needed to do and rolled the dive on my again, made an enormous splash, after which did not get good factors after which not received on the rostrum.
“However simply to know that I truly did it when it truly counted on the largest stage on this planet in sport, me and Tom … it was clearly the very best second of my life.”
Which begs the query: how did he handle to supply the most effective dives of his profession when it mattered most?
“One factor I’ve modified — and I feel the pandemic truly helped — was mentality, my psychological energy,” says Lee.
“My bodily energy has at all times been there; I have been capable of do the dives. I do know I can do them nicely as a result of I do them in coaching. However within the competitors, it is all psychological. You have to have little question in your thoughts, you may’t assume forward of your dive.”
That helped to deal with his personal efficiency, and as for his companion, Lee says he by no means had any doubts that Daley — one of many faces of the British Olympic motion for the previous 13 years having made his debut aged 14 — would ship.
“He is the one synchro companion I’ve ever had the place it is simply been like: I do know he is nice,” says Lee.
“I do know I can rely on him as a result of he’s that good … Making an attempt to remain within the second, take into consideration what I am doing proper now, proper then, simplifying every part in my thoughts — that is the primary factor that really improved in my diving profession. And that helped me attain Tom Daley’s stage and get the gold medal with him.”
However slowly, Lee’s focus will flip to setting targets for subsequent yr — notably on the Commonwealth Video games on house soil in Birmingham and the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
Though the Olympic highlight has dimmed, the preparation and routine are as intense as ever.