Tom Daley, Britain’s most decorated diver, grew up in the spotlight. He was 14 when he made a splash at his first Olympics, in 2008, and at 15 he became a world champion. This year in Tokyo, at his fourth Games, he finally won a longed-for gold, with his synchronised diving partner, Matty Lee. In 2013, Daley came out – a rarity among professional sportspeople – and he has become a campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights. Now 27, he is married to the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, with whom he has a three-year-old son.
In a new autobiography, he describes struggles with injury, debilitating anxiety and coping with the death of his father, his biggest champion. Here, one of Britain’s best-loved athletes gamely answers questions from our writer and Guardian readers on all of the above, as well as his other great passion: knitting.
Which do you think has had a greater role in your success – hard work, luck or talent? (Sam, UK)
I think it’s work, talent and luck, if I was to put them in order. It’s a lot about hard work, having the right mindset and being able to nurture what nature has given you.
What was your mindset when it came to each of your four Olympics? (Margaret, Canada)
In 2008, I didn’t have many expectations; I just wanted to give it my best shot. In 2012, it was about the experience and the home crowd. There was a performance goal, but I also knew that I had more Olympics in me. Going into 2016, it felt like my best chance – I was in the best possible shape. I put unbearable pressure on myself [Daley won bronze with Dan Goodfellow in the synchronised 10-metre, but didn’t make the final in the individual event]. When I went to 2020, my perspective shifted and the most important thing for me was my family – knowing they love me and support me, regardless of how I do.
Going for gold … Daley and Matty Lee during the men’s synchronised 10-metre final. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images