Tom Daley, one of the most decorated divers in Olympic history with six medals including three golds, has opened up about his late father’s influence on his life and career. He also discusses how he balances family life with training, his son’s love for knitting, and what it means to win an Olympic medal.
Tom Daley is an Olympic diving champion and has won gold in the men’s synchro 3m springboard event. He also shares a son with his late father, who died from cancer.
Tom Daley “never imagined he’d experience feeling like that” when he finally won Olympic gold in Tokyo 2020.
Daley has been a household name in the United Kingdom since he first walked on an Olympic diving board at the age of 14. The audience cheered him on as he won major championships, mourned his father’s death from cancer, and rejoiced when he married and subsequently became a parent.
For many, the highlight of the Tokyo Games was when the 27-year-old finally became an Olympic champion in the synchronised 10m platform event with Matty Lee, at his fourth Games.
Daley speaks on winning the gold medal, his late father, how his kid has altered his viewpoint, and his favorite pastime – knitting – in an exclusive interview with Breakfast’s Sally Nugent.
Daley is on his way to become an Olympic gold medalist.
“Winning an Olympic gold medal has been a lifelong ambition of mine, and having that medal placed around my neck by Matty was a dream come true.”
“I never expected to experience emotion in the manner that I did.” I’d always wanted to shout the national anthem at the top of my lungs, but I couldn’t even talk at the time.
“Even though it was just me and Matty on the podium, there are a lot of people behind that medal, and it all boiled down to that moment of pure joy after 20 years of preparation.”
“I was attempting to sing the national anthem,” she said. I couldn’t do it. I was a shambles.
“There were simply all the feelings that you experience, from the high of finally learning that we had won an Olympic gold to the low of eventually learning that we had lost.” When you have the medal around your neck and watch the flag being hoisted, it really hits you.
“When you watch the movie of all the things, it’s like a flashback in your mind of all the things that were really hard and tough and difficult, and then all the good moments, the terrible times, the people who helped you get there… it all came rushing back.”
“I’m not typically a cryer, but I was overcome with all sorts of feelings. Throughout the Olympics, I felt myself to be very emotional.”
This photo of a tearful Daley on the Olympic podium went viral.
Onward and upward for Daley, who has won Olympic gold as a homosexual man.
Daley came out as homosexual in 2013 and married Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winning screenwriter and producer, in May 2017.
“I consider myself very fortunate to be from the United Kingdom and to be able to stand on that diving board without fear of repercussions or even worry for my life.” However, there are still certain nations where being homosexual is a death sentence.
“I consider myself very fortunate to be able to dive without such consequences, but I also believe that there weren’t many out athletes competing when I was younger.”
“I just hope that winning an Olympic gold medal, winning any Olympic medal, going to the Olympics as a gay person, a member of the LGBT community, that any young kids out there who feel like they’re less than… who feel like they’re on the outside and feel different, or feel like they’ll never achieve anything just because of who they are, that any young kids out there who feel like they’re on the outside and feel different, or feel like they’ll never achieve anything just because of who they are,
“You can be the greatest in the world no matter who you are or where you come from.”
“In this last Olympics, there were more [out] LGBT athletes than in all prior Olympics combined. People will feel less alone just knowing this.”
On Daley… his father
Rob Daley died in 2011 at the age of 17 from a brain tumor.
“He was never there when I won any of my Olympic gold.” He was able to see me compete in Beijing, but not in London, Rio, or Tokyo. I believe he would be ecstatic to learn that I not only have four Olympic medals, but one of them is gold.
“A lot of people feel upset when they think about their parents who have passed away, but it makes me so pleased and proud to have accomplished what we had always wanted to achieve.”
“I’m sure he would have done something insane [after winning the gold in Tokyo], he would have fallen from the balcony, and he would have leapt into the pool.” He would have been the Olympic streaker; I’m sure he would have done something ridiculous.
“It simply makes me so happy to think that all of his hard work and sacrifice for my diving career was well worth it.”
In 2010, Tom Daley and his father, Rob, were photographed.
“I used to find it very humiliating to go around with my father at the time.” He used to do ridiculous things like interrupt press conferences and other similar stuff. It was very humiliating to me.
“But now that I’m a father and a little older, I see he didn’t give a damn what other people thought – if he wanted to visit his kid and give him a hug after winning the World Championship, he’d do it.” And he couldn’t care less what other people thought.
“I believe those kinds of lessons about being a parent that he’s given me, I now understand, and I have a whole new level of respect for my parents.”
On Daley… his son
In 2018, Daley and Black had their first child, Robbie.
“I believe Robbie altered my whole view and perspective on so many aspects of my life.
“I believed my diving career was over when I competed in the Commonwealth Games in 2018.” I had stress reactions in both of my shins, a lateral hip tear, and disc issues in my back, and I was certain I wouldn’t be able to return in time to compete in these Games.
“Then, when Robbie was born, the entire thing changed.” Everything came into place.
“Robbie is the most important thing in my life, and when you approach training with that mindset, you can appreciate it for what it is.” You know you’ll return home, and being a parent comes first. It changed the way I looked at it.
“And I knew coming into these Olympic Games that regardless of how brilliantly or poorly I performed, I would return home and be loved. And having that kind of unconditional love takes a lot of the burden off of me.”
Daley and his son Robbie, as well as his spouse Dustin Lance Black, who married in 2017.
Pre-Olympics surgery for Daley
“My knee began clicking and clunking very severely, but there was no pain, and I thought to myself, ‘Well, this is really strange,’ and that had been going on for about a year.”
“I was performing a meditation and when I got up, my knee sort of snapped – that was unusual.” I attempted to continue my training. I couldn’t walk the following day when I awoke. My knee was firmly fixed in place.
“Basically, the meniscus in my knee, which is cartilage, had ripped away, flipped up, and became trapped in the joint, locking my knee.”
“When I went to see my doctor, he suggested that I have an injection to loosen it up.’ The worst-case scenario is that you’ll require surgery.’
“I went in for an MRI scan, and they told me, ‘Sorry, we’ll have to operate.’ They estimated a four to six-week recuperation time. My synchro competition with Matty was just eight weeks away at the time.
“I didn’t have a choice,” she says. I needed to have my knee repaired since I wouldn’t be able to dive if I didn’t.
“I felt oddly at ease with it because I understood what I needed to do to be at my best in those Olympic Games, including whatever visualization, rehab, and supplements I needed to be able to go on the diving board and be ready.” I was ready to take on the challenge.
“I had the impression that everything was occurring for a purpose. If anything, I consider it a gift that I was able to feel refreshed after a period of intense training.
“Sometimes you may arrive to the Olympic Games tired, but I know that if I come at the board feeling well and with the energy to dive well, I’ll dive well.”
Daley is now knitting.
“I began knitting because I’m awful at sitting still, and it’s become a big part of my mindfulness.” ‘You need to relax,’ my coach constantly says. But if there’s a closet that needs to be organized, I’ll organize the cupboard.
“It was Lance who said that on set, people crochet squares to pass the time, and I thought, ‘OK, I’ll try that.’” So I began experimenting with it, fell in love with it, and now we’re here.
“I was knitting on the way, on the bus to the pool, on the bus home from the pool, in the stands, anytime I had a free minute when I say I’m obsessed with knitting.”
“I would sit and knit while the other guys in our flat played video games. I’d wake up and, if I had the opportunity to sit and knit, I’d do so.
“You may find yourself over-thinking a lot of things at the Olympic village. This is my method of getting away, passing the time, and not having to worry about diving.”