Yet the rewards for having taken it there, and the pressures of sustaining that elevation under the weight of home aspiration now threatens to send it all plunging.
Daley, world champion at 15, is not the only British Olympic medal contender whose very success could compromise performance in London 2012. Many more are treading a fine line between reaping the deserved dividends of their talents and blowing medal prospects. It's a near-impossible balancing act between capitalising on a unique commercial opportunity and maintaining the required training intensity to secure gold. The high-profile performers who deliver this year will be those who master that act.
Double standards are in play. While paying lip service to the mantra of not compromising on performance, sports' chief executives want to maximise exposure, and, indeed, the British Olympic Association has demands of its own on athletes for contractual agreements. These have already been the source of discord between the BOA and competitors and their agents.
Once, British Olympic gold-medal aspirants such as Don "Il Topolino" Thompson, risked their lives in pursuit of glory with no thought of financial reward. The man the Italians christened "Little Mouse" won gold in the 50-kilometre walk in 1960. He prepared for Rome by transforming the bathroom of his Middlesex home into a sauna with radiators, a steaming kettle, and a parafin stove. He exercised until he felt dizzy in the 120-degree heat, reckoning it was doing him good. The stove was pumping out carbon monoxide, and almost killed him.
Sporting history is replete with equally bizarre tales of selfless and courageous endeavour – only a fraction of which resulted in golds.
Since those days, a sporting and social anthropological revolution has occured. The transition was often painful. The International Olympic Committee battled with skiing. The IOC's octogenarian president, Avery Brundage, ranted about competitors whipping off their skis to display branding and logos to cameras, having barely come to a halt. "Blatant commercialism is making a sandwich-board man of the athlete," he bleated, but the IOC bowed to the inevitable.
Now, with hundreds of millions at stake, gold-medal aspirants are surrounded by agents, managers, public relations consultants, media trainers and advisers as the media makes demands Thompson and his ilk never experienced. Daley has become the poster-boy of London 2012. He is already the face of a £3m Nestle campaign. Other endorsements include adidas and Mini. His website, which features his own TV channel, tells us he has more followers on Chinese Twitter (qq.com) than any British sportsman: "David Beckham, Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray, Rory Mcllroy, and Wayne Rooney".
Daley can be booked for "personal appearances at selective corporate events and engagements". The company which handles these list him alongside such as Gabby Logan, Eddie the Eagle, Alan Hansen, and Freddie Flintoff.
His website shows video of him with fellow members of the GB swim team lip-synchronising to LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It". It has been viewed around 750,000 times. There is another of him posing for a new waxwork figure unveiled at Madame Tussauds on Monday. He did not attend the opening and insisted he had squeezed in sittings between training and studying for A-levels.
All of this activity led to an explosion with British Diving performance director, Alexei Evangulov. The Russian last week voiced concern about the impact on Daley's training, questioning commitment, comparing him with tennis bimbo Anna Kournikova, and claiming his Chinese rivals work, "three times harder".
They have attempted to pour oil on the turbulent waters, but the row overshadowed last week's Olympic test event where the Chinese won eight medals. Daley did not compete individually, and he and his synchro partner, Peter Waterfield, finished a remote seventh.
Team GB's chef de mission, Andy Hunt, says the BOA would "100% accept the decision of the respective performance director" while British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes has backed Evangulov in the face of support for Daley by some 200,000 Twitter followers.
There is patently a very different approach in China. Guo Jingjing won double gold in Athens in 2004, on springboard and synchronised springboard. She capitalised on her titles to such an extent that she was banned from the diving team for "excessive commercial activities".
Daley's management company admit comparisons with China "may be relevant from a sporting perspective, but are less valid from a cultural and human one." They say they reject more than 95% of approaches for the athlete.
It is patently obvious, however, that Daley cannot manage life outside the competitive environment in anything approaching the manner of gold-medal contenders such as cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, swimmer Becky Addlington, heptathlete Jessica Ennis, or the high-profile sailing and rowing squads.
He is scheduled for several campaigns in the coming months, but claims all his input was completed last year, that he has done no personal sponsor appearances this year, and that those booked for before the Games have been approved by Evangulov.
The BOA have consulted athletes on such issues for the first time, but one can't help feeling that government-funded competitors – for today's elite athletes are exactly that – should be locked into contracts which prevent this while protecting their right to cash in.
Professionalism remains the big Olympic issue.