Matty Lee first met Tom Daley when he was just nine years old, pestering a boy who was already an A-lister for a photo.
A decade and a half later, the pair are best mates and Olympic champions. Not only that, because of the Covid restrictions in place in Tokyo, Lee had the honour of placing Daley’s gold medal around his neck.
“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.
“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 10m synchro is an event that requires divers to be able to match each other’s movements exactly. It takes hours and hours of dedication and training, that much time together is not possible without a level of complicity between the pair.
Daley and Lee’s friendship goes much deeper though, developing rapidly since 2018 when they first partnered up.
They've done it!#GBR's Tom Daley and Matty Lee win the men's synchronised 10m platform final - a career first gold medal for four-time Olympian Daley!#Diving @TeamGB @fina1908 pic.twitter.com/iiwW5u4JTJ— Olympics (@Olympics) July 26, 2021
“In October 2018 I moved my whole life to London from Leeds,” he explained.
“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.”
Daley ending his quest for Olympic gold obviously will grab most of the headlines, but Lee held his nerve in a way that even coach Jane Figueiredo would not have thought him capable a matter of months ago.
Going into the final dive, Lee and Daley had a lead of 1.74 points of Chinese rivals Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen, and produced a sensational effort to score 101 points and all but wrap up gold, with Figueiredo blown away by Lee.
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.”