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 profitable Olympic gold hasn’t light simply but, however the return of his unforgiving training routine is bringing him again down to earth with a sizable splash.
“I’m nonetheless discovering it very bizarre to be again at training. I’m like: ‘Do I really need to be right here? This is basically arduous,'” says Lee.
“Preseason is not straightforward in any sport. It’s the place you get again into health. It’s ugly, however I simply know I want to get by way of this bit, get again in form, then I’ll really feel good after which I can set objectives. So I’m not speeding to any conclusions.”
Added to the problem of preseason is that Lee is doing all of it with out Daley by his facet.
The British pair had skilled and competed collectively for 3 years main up to the Olympics, forming an unbeaten partnership all through 2021.
But it is unclear whether or not the duo will proceed to compete collectively, with Lee saying he would not need to “pester” the 27-year-old Daley to make a choice whereas he is in North America together with his husband, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
“I beloved training alongside Tom for the previous three years and it feels actually flat with out him,” Lee provides.
“We get alongside so properly, and we have now actually skilled collectively for the previous three years. Everything we do, we do it collectively. Because clearly with synchro, we’re making an attempt to construct that bond the place we do not have to take into consideration being in sync, it is all very telepathic.”
Guarding the gold medal
In between training, house-sitting duties and discovering a new place to hire, Lee provides that he is nonetheless on “cloud 9” from the Tokyo Olympics — his debut Games.
And whereas most of his medals are saved in a cupboard at his dad and mom’ house, the Olympic gold hardly ever leaves his facet.
“I really feel prefer it simply wants to be wherever I’m,” says Lee. “I let individuals contact it, I let individuals put on it, I let individuals maintain the burden, however I’ve all the time received a good grip on the ribbon itself as a result of in the event that they drop it, then I’ll 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 story, so not to take a look at it in a destructive method, extra a constructive, cool method.”
‘I am unable to consider I did that’
In order to win gold within the males’s synchronized 10m platform, Lee had to maintain his nerve as the ultimate went down to the wire.
Daley and Lee led the Chinese 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 profitable run that stretched again to 2000.
“It’s attention-grabbing to look again on it,” says Lee. “Every so usually, I come throughout a video I’ve 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 really 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 had to do and rolled the dive on my again, made a large splash, after which did not get good factors after which not received on the rostrum.
“But simply to know that I really did it when it really counted on the largest stage on the earth in sport, me and Tom … it was clearly one of the best second of my life.”
Which begs the query: how did he handle to produce top-of-the-line dives of his profession when it mattered most?
“One factor I’ve modified — and I feel the pandemic really helped — was mentality, my psychological power,” says Lee.
“My bodily power has all the time been there; I’ve been ready to do the dives. I do know I can do them properly as a result of I do them in training. But within the competitors, it is all psychological. You’ve received to have little question in your thoughts, you’ll be able to’t suppose forward of your dive.”
That helped to maintain 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’s the one synchro companion I’ve ever had the place it is simply been like: I do know he is fantastic,” says Lee.
“I do know I can depend on him as a result of he’s that good … Trying to keep within the second, take into consideration what I’m doing proper now, proper then, simplifying every part in my thoughts — that is the principle factor that really improved in my diving profession. And that helped me attain Tom Daley’s stage and get the gold medal with him.”
But slowly, Lee’s focus will flip to setting objectives for subsequent yr — notably on the Commonwealth Games on house soil in Birmingham and the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
Although the Olympic highlight has dimmed, the preparation and routine are as intense as ever.