Tom Daley admitted he feared his glorious golden moment would never come after he finally fulfilled his 20-year Olympic dream.
The British diving star started in the sport as a seven-year-old and made his debut at the 2008 Beijing Games at the age of 14.
But despite winning bronze in both London 2012 and Rio 2016, it wasn’t until Monday and at his fourth Games that Daley was able to claim the one medal he truly craved: sensationally winning the synchronized 10-meter platform with partner Matty Lee.
Tom Daley (right) won gold on the synchronized 10-meter platform with partner Matty Lee
“I’ve been dreaming since I started diving 20 years ago for this moment,” Daley said after winning gold
“I’ve often doubted that this moment would ever come,” admitted Daley, who was in tears as he took the stage and played the national anthem at the Tokyo Aquatics Center.
‘Since I started diving 20 years ago, I dreamed of this moment, becoming an Olympic champion. But to take it to my fourth Olympics, where a lot of people wouldn’t have considered it my top games, is incredible.
“I thought Rio would be the Olympics where I had the best chance of becoming an Olympic champion and it turned out to be the complete opposite. In 2018 I had broken shins. I broke my hand early last year. Even up until June I had a pretty serious knee injury – I tore my meniscus and had knee surgery.
“It was like I couldn’t walk or had to have surgery, so I had to take the risk. There was a chance I couldn’t really be here because they said it would be four to six weeks, and it was six weeks by the time we left for Tokyo.
“But my husband told me that my story was not finished and that our child was supposed to watch me become an Olympic champion. I can now say he did – albeit on TV. I really still can’t believe it actually happened.’
It had been three years since Daley had son Robbie with husband Dustin Lance Black, whom he spoke to on a poolside TV screen after he won his gold medal. And the 27-year-old has credited fatherhood with transforming his fortune into his sport.
“Being a father was a huge turning point in my career as an athlete,” said Daley. “I realized that whether I did really well or terribly, I can go home to a man and son who love me no matter what.
“Knowing that love is unconditional to get on that diving board, I can take that pressure off myself and enjoy it. It changed my whole perspective.’
Daley, who came out as gay in 2013, said he wanted to be an inspiration to LGBT athletes
“I am incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” explains Daley
Daley also said he hoped his win would be an inspiration to young LGBT people. “I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” explains Daley. “When I was younger, I didn’t think I would ever achieve anything because of who I was.
“I hope every young LGBT person can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.’
Daley’s only regret was that his own inspiring father, Rob, was not alive to see his crowning achievement, dying of a brain tumor in 2011.
“I really wish my dad could see me win an Olympic medal,” Daley said. “When he passed away in 2011, it was extremely difficult for me.
“He’s never seen me compete in London or Rio or here, but I know he would be immensely proud of becoming an Olympic champion. It was always our dream to grow up.’
Daley has only been diving with 23-year-old Lee since 2018. But the following year they won world bronze together and were tipped for at least a podium finish here after victories at the European Championships and a test event in Tokyo in May.
Daley suffered broken shins in 2018 and had to undergo knee surgery earlier this year
Lee (left) grew up worshiping Daley. ‘Now we are best buddies and Olympic gold medalists’
However, to do that they had to overcome the formidable world champion Chinese pair. Daley and Lee followed Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen after three of the six dives, but an error by the favorites on the fourth lap put the British duo ahead.
They were able to hold onto that lead on the last and most difficult dive, which they executed perfectly to score 101.01. And that proved to be enough, despite a painful wait to see the final result after Cao and Chen scored 101.52 on their last try – meaning only 1.23 points differed between the pairs.
“We were waiting and hoping to see a two next to China’s name and when we did I just lost my dick!” said Lee, making his Olympic debut.
Lee first met Daley as a nine-year-old and admitted it was surreal to win gold with his hero, who even hung the medal around his partner’s neck.
“When I was younger I was a fan of Tom and I always looked up to him and idolized him and I actually wanted to be him,” Lee added. “Now, years later, we are best buddies and Olympic gold medalists. It’s pretty crazy.’
Daley, who starts his individual competition on Friday, had previously said he would likely retire if he completes his gold medal mission. But when asked if that was still the case after Monday’s win, he admitted: “That’s one of those things you say because you want to win an Olympic gold medal but never think you’re really going to do it.” .
‘No, I think I’ll continue. I will definitely take a break after that. There are some drinks with my name on it to celebrate at home with my husband and family. But Paris is only three years old now, so we’ll see.’