Interview: Cliff Joannou / Additonal words: Will Stroude
Matty Lee was already carving out a career as one of Team GB's most successful young divers when he was paired with sporting superstar Tom Daley in the men's synchro in 2018, but the young athlete readily acknowledges that the pair's out-of-competition status as "two best friends" has helped elicit their best performances in the pool, too.
Fresh from a gold medal at the FINA Diving World Cup in Japan and the European Aquatics Championships in Budapest, 23-year-old Matty appears alongside his professional partner in the Attitude July issue - out now to download and to order globally.
Matty Lees for the Attitude July issue, out now (Photography: Eddie Blagbrough)
Despite an impressive haul of medals - including a bronze from the World Championships, a gold, two silvers and four bronze medals from the Diving World Series and two golds, three silvers and one bronze from the Diving Grand Prix - Matty says he's been "learning a lot" from working with Daley, who he describes as "one of the best in the world".
"I one hundred per cent have become a better diver just from the two or three years I’ve been training with Tom," Matty says.
"So, obviously, it is scary, but I’ve gotten used to it, and I love it."
Photography: Eddie Blagbrough
Hinting at the possibility of Daley retiring after the Tokyo Games, Matty adds: "Whatever Tom decides to do after this Olympics, I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, to be fair."
Of the secret to the success of the pair's partnership, Matty explains: "I feel like we can both be exactly who we are. It was very quick, our friendship. Obviously, Tom knew I was moving my whole life to London and stuff, so he very much took me under his wing.
"I didn’t know anyone in London at the time, so he introduced me to his friends. He had Monday night dinner clubs, and he would invite me to them, because
I was quite shy, and not very good at talking to people I don’t know.
"Courtney Act as Shane would be there, as well as other lovely people."
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Tom agrees that his personal chemistry with Matty has helped propel the pair to greater sporting heights.
"I mean, [success] can be purely technique, because with Peter Waterfield in 2012, literally the only words we ever said to each other were, 'Ready' 'Yes', 'One, two, three, go'," recalls the Rio bronze medalist, 26. "And it wasn’t because we didn’t get on, it was just we didn’t have anything at all in common.
"Whereas with Matty, we’re like best friends, so being able to have that is also nice, to be able to enjoy spending time with each other."
"You can do synchro with someone who’s not your best mate, as Tom said," Matty chips in. "But it makes it so much easier, and just more enjoyable doing it with your best friend.
Matty wears swimwear by adidas (Photography: Eddie Blagbrough)
"It’s like working with your best friend; we bounce off each other really well. And because we’re such good friends, we can be so honest with each other without worrying about, oh, am I going to hurt his feelings if I say that? But there is none of that. Sometimes we have quite brutal, funny banter with each other."
"It makes it easier to communicate, that’s for sure", adds Tom. "Because we can say… I call them truth jokes, but they often are just…
"Savage", Matty deadpans.
"Like, the library is open…" laughs Tom.
Read the full interview in the Attitude July issue, out now.