I would swap my silver in a heartbeat to go to London
HIS top-class career took in three Olympic Games and he claimed a superb silver medal at Athens in 2004, but Leon Taylor would swap that all 'in a heartbeat' for a chance to compete at London 2012.
The former Bournside School pupil wowed audiences across the nation when he and synchronised diving partner Pete Waterfield somersaulted and twisted their way to silver medals in Athens eight years ago.
But that hard-earned silver medal – the ultimate product of a 20-year career of punishing hard work – would be sent back to its maker for Taylor to be allowed the chance to compete at a home Olympic Games.
Now 34, Taylor will be working as a commentator for the BBC at London 2012, while also acting as a mentor to the Team GB Olympic diving squad, and in particular child prodigy Tom Daley.
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And while he considers that his privileged commentary position will be the second-best seat in the house, he said he would still give anything to be in a position to compete on home ground.
He is also refusing to allow Daley to think of any so-called pressure to perform when he takes to the diving platform in two weeks' time, insisting that it's a golden opportunity for the 18-year-old star.
"I would swap with any of this team in a heartbeat," Taylor said. "People say to me that because of my relationship with Tom Daley, that Tom's under too much pressure to perform.
"But I tell them that I would swap with him in heartbeat. I keep telling him how lucky he is to be in the position he is now.
"He is on the top of his game and he's going to compete in the world's greatest competition on the greatest stage in front of a home crowd.
"I am sure if you were to ask any Olympian they would say the same thing.
"If you were to ask Daley Thompson, ask Sir Steve Redgrave or Sebastian Coe they would all say the same thing I am sure.
"In a nice way they will all be massively envious of Jess Ennis, Christine Ohurougu or Ben Ainslee because of what they can do and achieve in front of a home crowd."
Competing in London was never really an option for Taylor, who first tasted the thrill of Olympic competition as an 18-year-old at Atlanta in 1996.
Along with Waterfield he narrowly missed out on a medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney, where he experienced the agony of finishing fourth, missing out on a medal by the narrowest of margins.
Four years and two shoulder surgeries later, all the hard work became worthwhile when Taylor and Waterfield claimed silver medals behind the Chinese duo of Tian Liang and Yang Jinghui.
Despite a willingness, in mind at least, to compete again on the greatest stage at Beijing in 2008, the wear and tear of competition forced Taylor to retire at the age of 30.
It was then that the BBC came calling and Taylor now combines that role with that of a motivational speaker and published author, having released his book titled Mentor last year.
"You set your course and you give it your all and I knew it was going to be a tough cycle to make it to Beijing in 2008," Taylor said.
"You just get to the point where your body just says 'no, I can't do this'. Your mind can still do it but the body just can't hold up.
"At the age of 30, I couldn't get out of bed in the morning and it was taking me a couple of hours to be able to stand up straight and that was that.
"Luckily, because of what I had been doing over the previous few months, the BBC had been speaking to me and asking me to commentate if I did retire.
"So that was like a win-win for me. I was going to be going to the Olympics to do that, with no experience, no training straight in at the deep end.
I have obviously done all right because they've asked me back!
"I am also now an author and I am very proud of my first book.
"It's based on my experiences with Tom Daley, it's advice on how to play that mentor's role and I've had some great feedback from that.
"I also do a lot of speaking and presenting to companies and also lots of school appearances where I present to the pupils with my story and encourage them to take up sport and be healthy."
And the energy he brings to his public and motivational speaking shines through with microphone in hand, and the volume levels are likely to go through the roof if there is a British gold at London.
Picking out Daley and his old sparring partner Waterfield as outstanding medal candidates, Taylor believes that this is the strongest diving team to represent Team GB, and he is hopeful of commentating on a golden moment.
"This is an exciting team as we have strength across the board – excuse the metaphor," he said. "We have three strong medal chances and we've never had that before.
"This time you have Tom and Pete in the synchro and Tom individually as well and then the girls Sarah Barrow and Tonia Couch.
"It excites me that there are chances to come away with three medals and that would be extraordinary.
"I don't know what it will be like if either Tom or Pete were to win gold. I don't think I would be particularly eloquent. It would be a lot of shouting!
"I am a fan at the end of the day. And when something great happens, I'm not going to be very BBC and impartial. I am going to be shouting 'come on Tom'."