Taylor and Waterfield were the Little and Large of diving

I have mixed feeling about the retirement of Leon Taylor from competitive diving.

That's me being very selfish, of course, as nothing would have given me greater pleasure that to see Leon and synchro partner Peter Waterfield go one better than they did in Athens four years ago and take gold in the platform event this time.

But I also know what a huge asset the 30-year-old will be alongside me in the commentary box.

Taylor was in danger of becoming the 21st century bionic man. When you are hitting the water at speeds of around 35 miles an hour it's not surprising that your body takes a battering, and his took more than most.

Operations on shoulder, back and, let's be honest, most parts of the body couldn't quite hold him together long enough to compete in Beijing but it certainly wasn't for the want of trying.

I recall the European Diving Championships in Istanbul nine years ago when he and I were deployed to go and get the food in for the team - there's no standing on ceremony with the diving fraternity, even the media have to muck in.

Leon's trademark blonde rinse had gone green from the chlorine, he looked like a retro punk rocker or maybe gave inspiration to Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day for his initial look.

He stood out - and not just for hair colouration reasons - as something a bit special. He had maturity beyond his years both in his sport and the way he presented himself.

It's no real surprise that he is now a mentor to Tom Daley and there are striking similarities in their professional outlook.

Taylor and Waterfield just missed out on a medal at the Sydney Olympics in the inaugural 10 metres synchro event - but rather than go into his shell and feel sorry for himself Taylor immediately switched his focus to making sure that he didn't miss out in Athens.

Waterfield and Taylor took silver in Athens four years ago

Two years later it was silver in the individual platform event at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and - despite the fact that Leon and Waterfield never seemed to be injury free at the same time - the Little and Large of British diving managed to peak at the right time at the Olympics in 2004.

The only real regret they had is that they couldn't take the gold, they were very close to Chinese duo of Tian Liang and Yang Jinhui in the final standings, and a better final dive might have been enough to upset the favourites.

This won't be Leon's first taste of commentary for the BBC. He joined Chris Snode and me at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 after being ruled out of action through injury, and immediately sounded at home in his new surroundings.

He will be a huge asset to our commentary team in Beijing but I will miss the buzz of commentating on his achievements on the 10 metre board. Those are moments you just can't replicate.

Bob Ballard is a BBC reporter and commentator focusing on swimming and diving. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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