He's behind you! The hairy moment Olympian diver Tom Daley met a giant walrus (and his friends) at SeaWorld
Friday, October 24, 2008
At the age of 14, he is already used to making quite a splash.
But even Olympic diving prodigy Tom Daley may have felt like a fish out of water when he came up against his latest competitors.
The schoolboy was awestruck as he watched performing dolphins leap 20 feet from their pool during a visit to a US theme park as he prepared for a special guest slot in their remarkable show.
He was so impressed he even took time to shake one of the aquatic acrobat's flippers, before being introduced to some of the other stars of SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
While Tom, the second youngest British athlete to ever compete in an Olympics, was clearly excited to meet all the amazing animals, a sea lion called Claude played it cool and shut his eyes as he leaned on the youngster's head - then let out an ear-shattering bellow.
After the Beijing Olympics, Tom was invited to SeaWorld to take part in its spectacular Blue Horizons show, the stars of which include Atlantic bottled-nosed dolphins Starbucks and Orlando.
During his performance before a packed audience of more than 1,000 on Wednesday, he performed five of his most impressive dives from the 8m high platforms which form part of the show's elaborate set around the giant pool.
Yesterday Tom, from Plymouth, Devon, described the experience of co-starring with the dolphins as 'amazing'.
He said: 'It's a fantastic show, combining athletic skills and animal power and the audience were brilliant.
.'It certainly was a very different experience from diving in Beijing but just as exciting.
'Taking part in the Olympics was fantastic, but I was really looking forward to coming here and diving with the dolphins. It was a one off experience.
'How many people can say they went diving with dolphins? They are just so well trained and so agile. They are amazing.'
His performance was such a success he spent more than an hour after the show signing autographs for fans.
Tom finished seventh in the 10m synchronised diving final at the Olympics in August and won a silver at the world junior championships last month. He now hopes to win a gold medal at the 2012 London Games.
He is on a week's holiday in the US with his parents Rob, 37, and Debiie, 38, and brothers William, 12, and Ben, nine, during his half-term from Eggbuckland Community College in Plymouth
Mr Daley said: 'This is a great treat for Tom after all the work he has put in during the last year. He really has been looking forward to diving with the dolphins.
'It is a bit different to the competitions he is used to, but a lot of fun. He really is enjoying himself
SeaWorld's head trainer Mark Galan said: 'We have heard a lot about Tom and his show was fantastic. It is a real privilege to have him dive with our dolphins.'
Blue Horizons is billed as a dolphin theatrical performance about the place where the sea meets the sky and also features exotic birds including maccaws and condors soaring above the audience, divers, aerial performers and an original musical score by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
The set was designed by Stanley Meyer, best known for his work designing the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast.