Tom Daley is a British diver who competed in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. He won a bronze medal at the 2009 World Championships and gold at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships.
Tom Daley is a British diver who has been competing in the Olympics since 2007. He was born on December 28th, 1987 and was the first of his family to have an Olympic gold medal.
Although the little kid speaking to the camera smiled, everyone could see the steeliness in his eyes.
Tom Daley said the in 2005, “I want to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal.” He was carrying a sketch of himself performing a handstand on the 10m diving platform at the 2012 London Olympics, which was still seven years away.
“If I didn’t win, it would motivate me to compete in the next Olympics and earn a medal.”
When Daley declared his goal, he was just 11 years old.
His goal was eventually realized sixteen years later. In Tokyo 2020, he and Matty Lee won a historic synchronized 10m platform Olympic championship.
During the medal ceremony, tears welled up in his eyes as he realized the gravity of the situation.
And what a journey it’s been. This is Tom Daley’s journey to gold medal success.
This and other achievements, like as becoming world champion at 15 and winning Olympic bronze twice, owe much to a remarkable determination that has also helped him overcome challenges outside of the pool.
He was bullied at school when he was younger. His father died in 2011 at the age of 40. Before coming out in 2013, he was afraid of the repercussions of exposing his sexuality.
Daley is the most decorated diver in the United Kingdom, yet his popularity extends well beyond his sport. He’s become one of the most well-known homosexual sportsmen in sports, serving as a role model for others in the LGBTQ+ community. Throughout his time in the limelight, he has had numerous run-ins with the media.
He thinks it’s “amazing” to see how “intense and obsessive” he was as a kid now that he’s 27 and a parent.
“Wow, slow down, take your time, enjoy it,” he told Sport. “If my kid was talking like that at the same age, I’d be like ‘wow, calm down, take your time, enjoy it.” “But obviously there was something in me that was so desperate for it.”
Tokyo, his fourth Olympic Games, was probably his final genuine opportunity to win it. While he still has the same goal, fatherhood and his partner have helped him get a fresh perspective on both success and tragedy.
“I believed I was going to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio, but it turned out to be the polar opposite,” the diver remembers. “It seemed as though the world had ended.”
“Now my family is my universe and structure, and it was my spouse who told me that my narrative wasn’t over.”
“Although we didn’t realize it at the time, my son (Robbie) wanted to see me win an Olympic gold, and being able to say that he saw me win an Olympic gold – although on TV since they couldn’t be here – is such a wonderful feeling.”
Daley has always been obsessed with the Olympics. He clearly remembers his attempts as an 11-year-old to see Britain’s Leon Taylor and Pete Waterfield win silver in the men’s synchronised 10m platform final in Athens 2004.
“We were on vacation in our caravan, and everyone was going to the kids’ clubs,” he remembers, smiling. “But I was determined to stay in and watch the diving, so I was leaning out the window with the aerial to try to get a better signal.”
Daley was already attracting more attention than his “idols” four years later. At the age of 13, he had qualified for Beijing 2008, and cameras were following his every move.
In China, he didn’t compete for medals, but the audience enjoyed seeing the young adolescent and cheered for ‘baby Daley’ throughout the competition. A new star has been born. But things weren’t always simple back home.
“Some people at my school were ecstatic for me, but others were very nasty, and I was tormented,” he explains.
“I simply stayed quiet about it for a long time, but I bottled up so much that I couldn’t exercise anymore, and it destroyed me psychologically until I had nothing left.”
“It came to the point where I was constantly ashamed to speak about diving, and I couldn’t accept a praise because I was afraid of being ridiculed if someone said anything good.”
Daley became desirous of being homeschooled as a result. Instead, towards the conclusion of his first year of GCSEs, a month before the 2009 World Championships, he was given a spot at Plymouth College.
The revitalized 15-year-old went from medal contender to full-fledged champion in Rome.
While his historic performance on the 10m platform was impressive, what occurred an hour later may have been even more so. When asked about the now-famous press conference, Daley grins and rolls his eyes.
At the 2009 World Championships, Daley poses with his gold medal.
“I remember my father sneaking in with a journalist and he had this glowing grin,” he remembers.
“‘I’m Rob, Tom’s father, and I’d want a hug,’ he added, raising his hand. ‘Oh my goodness…’ I remember thinking.”
As he carefully makes his way past the media throng to his father – and another swarm of cameras – Daley can be heard saying “dad, this is really humiliating.”
“I recall him telling me, ‘Tom, I drove you to all of your training sessions, taught you how to ride a bike, and changed your diapers when you were a child.’ Seeing his kid become a world champion, he added, was the greatest moment of his life.
“Looking back, it was a really meaningful occasion since we’d accomplished it together, and now that I’m a parent, I understand why he was so emotional.”
Few people knew at the time that Rob had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2006, and he recognized how unique these moments were, as well as how valuable time with his kid.
Rob was no longer in remission three years after Daley’s achievement, despite undergoing surgery to remove 80 percent of the tumor three years before.
Rob died peacefully with his family at his side on Friday, May 27, 2011, precisely 14 months before the London 2012 Olympics started.
“In some ways, we may not have been as close if he hadn’t had that brain tumor. We formed a fantastic bond, “Daley agrees.
“What’s even more sad is that for the last several days, all he’s asked me is, ‘Have we gotten tickets for London 2012 yet?’ Are we allowed to go in since we won the ballots?’
“It’s strange to think about all the things he’s missed since he was so thrilled about being able to watch me compete.”
Grief affects individuals in various ways, and Daley thinks he “didn’t manage it in the healthiest of ways” at the moment, more than a decade later.
“My father passed away on a Friday, and I was at training on Saturday morning, followed by the burial on Wednesday. Halfway through the wake, I had to leave to go and participate in the national finals “With a shake of his head, he adds.
“Now that I’m an older athlete, I realize there are more important things in life than diving,” she says. “But back then, I knew the London Olympics was this huge event that my father and I had always dreamt of, and I had all the drive in the world to go to London and be on the podium in 2012.”
Daley took on additional responsibilities as the “man of the house” when his father died, and he assisted his mother, Debbie, by transporting his younger brothers to school and rugby practice.
There were continuous media concerns regarding his mental condition leading up to his home Games. British Diving’s performance director’s comments increased to the strain.
Alexei Evangulov insisted that he lose weight and publicly chastised the diver by comparing him to ‘Britain’s Anna Kournikova,’ a Russian former tennis star turned model whose athletic career was allegedly harmed by media attention.
Daley produced a magnificent medal under “so much pressure,” effectively saving his sport by winning team financing for the four years running up to Rio 2016.
“‘Was that my time?’ I wonder from time to time. Is it possible that was gold?’ But there are so few individuals who get to be an Olympian, much alone an Olympic medalist, that I have to feel happy to having earned a bronze in front of my home crowd “he declares
In his post-event interviews, Daley paid homage to his father, but it was only in the months thereafter that he allowed himself to truly mourn.
“After the Olympics, it all struck me. There was a huge explosion “he declares
“I didn’t know what I wanted to accomplish with my life any more, since London 2012 was all I had in my book – and I actually stopped diving for a few months.”
Daley was visiting a therapist at the time in an effort to overcome the “fear” he was feeling when executing his “twister” dive. Since camera flashes prompted him to seek a re-dive while executing the performance in the Olympic final, he had acquired a genuine phobia.
He was also dealing with a recurring triceps injury tear, was annoyed by ‘false news’ reports in the press about his shopping habits, and was aware that some individuals were eager to ‘out’ him at a time when he was still processing his sexuality.
Daley returned to the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona at the age of 19, re-torn his triceps, placed sixth, and then flew to Los Angeles. It had a significant impact on his life.
Daley and his son Robbie, as well as his spouse Dustin Lance Black, who married in 2017.
“The hardest thing I discovered growing up is that there are so many competing ideas and sentiments, and I had to live them all out in public,” he adds.
“It’s tough enough to figure out your sexuality on your own, much alone when you’re under continuous surveillance and people are asking you questions and trying to find out what you’re doing.”
While in the United States, Daley met his now-husband, Oscar-winning screenwriter and producer Dustin Lance Black. His shoulders were immediately relieved of a “great weight.”
He adds that “meeting Lance and then coming out in 2013 altered everything.” “It enabled me to stop worrying, fearing, and simply being myself.”
The medals started to flow again when he relocated to London and hired Jane Figueiredo as his new coach. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, she won her third career gold medal, followed by a team championship and individual bronze at the 2015 World Championships.
In 2016, Daley competed in what he considered to be his “peak Olympics” in Rio, where he was a gold medal favorite. With new synchronised 10m partner Dan Goodfellow, he warmed up for his solo event with an outstanding bronze.
Teammates Jack Laugher and Chris Mears created history by becoming Britain’s first-ever Olympic diving champions, with Laugher adding an individual 3m silver.
“When Jack and Chris won the Olympic gold medal, I was like, ‘OMG, that is my greatest goal,’ so I didn’t get my escape plan perfect, and I had no mental break from everything,” Daley recalls.
“I was thinking, OK, this is my time now!” after Jack won silver.
In their last two performances at Tokyo 2020, Matty Lee and Daley managed anxiety and pressure to win gold.
Despite achieving a new Olympic record total of 571.85 in the preliminary round, Daley was shocked when he failed to qualify for a major final for the first time in his career later that day. He still hasn’t figured out what occurred five years later.
“My nervous system, umm, my mind and body link wasn’t, uh, there,” Daley adds, visibly agitated as he views the event video for the first time.
“I’ve sort of blanked out on this, and it still makes no sense. I occasionally wonder whether I should have remained in the ice bath longer or had a recovery drink at a different time, but sometimes you simply have to admit that you’ve had a terrible day.”
He promised to return for the Tokyo Games in emotional post-event interviews. But a measure of atonement would come much sooner: a year later, he put up probably his best performance of his career to win his first solo world championship since 2009.
He utilized the platform that winning provided him at the 2018 Commonwealth Games to speak out on causes other than sport the following year.
Inspired by his husband’s involvement on LGBTQ+ issues and campaigns, he called for Commonwealth countries to decriminalise homosexuality, claiming that it was unlawful for athletes participating in the Games to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex in 37 of the 53 countries (70 percent).
“In order to achieve change, we have to speak about these things and put a light on them,” he says today.
In sports, homophobia is rampant – Daley
That year, Daley dealt with illness, a concussion, and a stress fracture. He pondered his diving future, but the birth of his son Robbie re-energized him.
“It seemed like the end of the world in 2016,” he adds. “Now I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, ‘You’re going to get married, have a lovely kid, and things are going to become a whole lot better.’”
However, at the age of 27, the everyday effect of hurling his body from a height of 10 meters and striking the sea at a speed of 35 miles per hour has undoubtedly taken its toll. Daley, who used to be the team’s “baby,” now refers to himself as the “grandad.”
The five-time European champion has started practicing mindfulness, yoga, and gyrotonics in the hopes of extending his career, which has already been prolonged by at least a year due to the coronavirus epidemic.
“I knew coming into Rio that if I won the Olympic gold medal, it would be my final dive,” says Daley, who will compete in Tokyo both solo and with new synchronized partner Matty Lee.
He is now “almost relieved” to have had five more “bonus” years in the sport, and he came in Japan “mentally stronger” than he has ever been.
So, let’s go to Tokyo. Daley has long said that he prefers to compete against strong Chinese opponents at outdoor settings, where the sun, wind, and changing crowd sounds add more factors to the game.
The indoor Tokyo Olympic Aquatics Centre, which has no spectators, was regarded as the ideal environment for the East Asian athletes to dominate with their “almost robotic” approach.
Chen Aisen and Cao Yuan, the reigning Olympic and current world champions, started the synchronised 10m final well and seemed to be far ahead of their competitors at the halfway point.
As the scoreboard showed the scenario, Daley twisted his lip. They had been excellent, but not gold-worthy. He and Lee exchanged a quick glance and a nod. They knew they could do more.
In the fourth round, the British couple performed a spectacular dive, bringing them to within a point of their opponents with their final performance.
In the last round, Daley and Lee set a new record with a dive of 101.01.
Leon Taylor, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist who coached Daley earlier in his career, exploded with joy on commentary, declaring gold for Britain – before stopping and understanding that although a high three-digit score was unlikely, it wasn’t out of the question from the Chinese.
Daley was jittery. The usually calculated, calm, and ‘in control’ diver was gone, replaced by a guy who was restless and lacking in composure.
He was jittery, bouncing about like a frightened kid. He’d been here before, awaiting the verdict of the judges, but this time was different. It was very certainly his final shot for gold.
As soon as the Chinese total was announced, Daley sprang upon Lee and tears started to pour. Not only Daley, but the majority of his teammates, coaches, and Team GB support personnel were wiping their tears as well.
“I’ve been diving for 20 years and I still can’t believe what’s happened,” he said minutes after winning the medal he’d aspired to since he was a kid.
Two British divers won the synchronized 10m event, giving the country its first-ever Olympic championship in the sport.
But it was much more than that.
It also marked the end of a trip he started with his late father almost two decades ago. It was also a message on the value of inclusiveness and perseverance in the face of hardship.
Daley started, “When I was a young kid, I felt like an outcast and strange.” “I felt like I’d never amount to anything because I wasn’t who society expected me to be.”
“I hope that watching LGBT athletes compete at the Olympic Games inspires young people and makes them feel less afraid, terrified, and alone.”
“You can be an Olympic champion no matter who you are or where you come from, because I accomplished it.”
This article was first published on July 19th.