14-year-old diving star TAMAI Rikuto seals historic qualification for Tokyo 2020

TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 03: Rikuto Tamai of Japan competes in the Men's 10m Platform preliminary round on day three of the FINA Diving World Cup at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on May 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 03: Rikuto Tamai of Japan competes in the Men's 10m Platform preliminary round on day three of the FINA Diving World Cup at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on May 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)

Japan’s teenage diving sensation is set to become the host nation’s youngest athlete at the Olympic Games in 2021 and should “soak it all in” according to Team GB Olympian Tom Daley.

Fourteen-year-old diving star TAMAI Rikuto has sealed the required rankings for Tokyo 2020.

The teenager’s score of 421.30 in the semi-final of the 10m platform at the Diving World Cup in Tokyo on Monday (3 May) was enough to secure ninth place, and his passage to the Olympic Games in 2021.

Tamai hit the headlines in 2019 by becoming Japan’s youngest national champion at just 12, but found his qualification path reduced for Tokyo 2020 by virtue of him being too young to compete at the World Aquatics Championship in South Korea later that year.

Instead, all eyes were on Tamai to see if he could qualify for the Games at the postponed World Cup, which doubled up as a Tokyo 2020 test event, and the young diver showed nerves of steel in the preliminary heat to record a score of 405.20 to finish 15th out of 46.

The result secured progression to the semi-final, and with it, a chance to become Japan’s youngest athlete at Tokyo 2020 this summer where he is expected to make his Olympic bow.

TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 01: Thomas Daley and Matthew Lee of Great Britain pose with their gold medals after winning the Men's Synchronised 10m Platform final on day one of the FINA Diving World Cup at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on May 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 01: Thomas Daley and Matthew Lee of Great Britain pose with their gold medals after winning the Men's Synchronised 10m Platform final on day one of the FINA Diving World Cup at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on May 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Toru Hanai/Getty Images)
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Team GB’s Tom Daley, a competitive rival on the 10m platform, was also 14 when he made his Olympic debut at Beijing 2008 and offered encouraging words of advice to the Japanese teenager.

“The one thing that I wish had stuck with me from when I was 14 was to enjoy every single moment,” the Olympic medallist who won gold on the opening day of the World Cup in the men's 10m synchronised, said. “Now is the time where you can enjoy diving with no pressure, no expectation.”

“Every single person in this building [Tokyo Aquatics Centre] will be rooting for him to do the best that he can, and especially being able to dive in front of a home crowd at the Olympics, or hopefully there'll be a crowd for Japanese spectators.

“But I think he just needs to soak it all in and take that experience. Enjoy it. Don't put any pressure on himself, because there will be times in the future when there will be expectation and you can put your pressure on that.

“There will be pressure to come. So just enjoy it.”

Tamai Rikuto's qualification will be ratified by the Japan Swimming Federation in mid-May.