Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Matty Lee first met Tom Daley as a nine-year-old fan, as he begged the already famous athlete for an autograph.
Now, a decade and a half later, Lee can now call his childhood role model not only his diving partner, but also his best friend.
“I don’t remember the exact day we met but I was a massive fan of Tom’s. I remember running up to him and asking for photos and a signature,” he recalls.
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“There’s a photo of me and Tom around the year of Beijing and it’s funny because I’m just a kid with a big head. We put them together with another photo that’s more recent.
It’s funny how things change. All those years back I was a fan, a little kid looking up to him. Now we’re best mates and Olympic gold medallists.
The pairs friendship has developed rapidly since 2018 when they first partnered up following Lee relocating to London to train with Daley, with their duo dives giving away just how close they are.
The 10m synchro is an event that requires divers to be able to match each other’s movements perfectly- something that Daley and Lee do with ease due to their relationship.
Lee said: “In October 2018 I moved my whole life to London from Leeds,”
“I was away from my family and friends, everyone, I had nothing really in London.
“I owe a lot to this guy (Daley) because he’s taught me a lot. We are best friends and we spend a lot of time with each other. I had no friends in London and this guy introduced me to his mates and his family.
To be able to put the well-deserved gold medal around his neck was really special to me, and I’m very, very proud of him. Obviously, it’s my dream to be an Olympic gold medallist, but it’s great to be able to have won that with Tom.
A nail-biting finish saw Daley and Lee neck-and-neck with Chinese favourites Chen Aisen and Cao Yuan, but the British pair held their nerve to seal victory and claim gold.
Although the story of Daley ending his quest for Olympic gold in his fourth Olympic Games has grabbed the headlines, it is also notable that Lee was able to hold his nerve in a way that even coach Jane Figueiredo would not have thought him capable a matter of months ago.

Gold medalists Thomas Daley and Matty Lee of Great Britain celebrate after winning the Men's Synchronized 10m Platform Final on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Image credit: Getty Images

She said: “I’ll be honest, Tom has nerves of steel. Matty has never been under this sort of pressure. So you always think about the weakest link as opposed to the strongest link.
“When we won the World Cup a few months ago here in this pool and we won the Europeans, I just saw in him something different.
“He would wink at me and I would think what. It was a confidence thing and I loved it because I’d not seen it before but I liked it. He was just so solid and I’m so happy for him and Tom.”
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