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Tom Daley: last Olympic chance for teenage sensation turned crocheter | Tom Daley

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Tom Daley was only 13 the first time I interviewed him in April 2008. “He’s small and smiley,” I wrote, “with flashing braces on his tooth and a fascinating method of setting you relaxed inside minutes of assembly him. He likes enjoying on the Wii way over soccer and, sooner or later, he wouldn’t thoughts changing into a Blue Peter presenter. Within the meantime Daley is the brand new European diving champion who takes his fortunate monkey with him wherever he competes all over the world.”

Daley was getting ready for his first Olympic Games amid giddy nationwide curiosity. 13 years later, he and his husband are proud dad and mom and Daley is about to compete in his fourth Olympics. He has gained two medals, misplaced just a few extra, whereas struggling doubt and grief alongside his emergence as one of many few British sportsmen to have come out publicly.

It has been a tumultuous 13 years and, in 2008, Daley advised me about being bullied in school and watching his dad battle with mind most cancers. On the Beijing Olympics he was mobbed by Chinese girls earlier than his debut occasion led to disappointment. Daley and Blake Aldridge finished last in the synchronised 10m platform. Aldridge, 26, stacked cabinets at B&Q whereas Daley was already a celeb. Their competitors ended in a spat because the 14-year-old castigated Aldridge for calling his mum throughout the competitors. Daley did higher on his personal – ending seventh within the particular person 10m platform.

I met Daley again the next April. “I’m turning 15 subsequent month,” he stated, “however I appear to have been 14 for, like, perpetually.” Daley advised me extra concerning the distressing bullying he endured in school. It grew to become a story in the national press and, that June, he moved colleges. A month later he grew to become world champion within the 10m platform.

Daley’s life was streaked with ache and fame. His father died in Could 2011 whereas, simply earlier than London 2012, Daley launched his autobiography and took part in a BBC documentary about his life. British Diving’s efficiency director, Alexei Evangulov, warned Daley his business and media work compromised his medal prospects.

I carried out Daley’s last interview before the London Olympics when he advised me it might be “scary” to dive. “I’ll be amazed when, sooner or later, I look again and see what I withstood between 13 and 18. However my dream is to win Olympic gold.”

Tom Daley warms up for the lads’s 10m synchronised ultimate on the London Video games. {Photograph}: Dan Chung/The Guardian

A number of weeks later Daley and Pete Waterfield led the 10m synchronised ultimate on the midway stage. However their diving went awry they usually have been devastated to complete fourth. Redemption got here within the particular person occasion where Daley finally won an Olympic bronze medal because the tears fell.

After London, as he said in another Guardian interview in 2020, “I by no means wished to dive once more.” He was abused on social media however nonetheless launched an abject actuality TV present referred to as Splash. A yr later, in September 2013, he stated: “I believe it’s humorous when individuals say I’m homosexual. I’m not. Even when I used to be, I wouldn’t be ashamed.”

Three months later he made a YouTube announcement: “My life modified massively after I met somebody and it made me really feel so pleased, so secure. Properly, that somebody is a man.”

Dustin Lance Black, 20 years older than Daley, had gained an Oscar for writing Milk, the biopic of homosexual rights campaigner Harvey Milk. In October 2015 they introduced their engagement. Daley’s third Olympics, in Rio, was sometimes dramatic. He was ecstatic when winning bronze in the synchronised, with Daniel Goodfellow, and desolate when failing to reach the individual final. “On the Olympics your desires can get crushed straight away,” he stated after among the worst dives of his profession. “It doesn’t get any decrease than this.”

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Daley grew to become the 10m platform world champion once more in 2017 and, the next June, he and Black announced the birth of their son. His public life grew to become calmer and I needed to smile this March, nearly 13 years since we first met, after I learn that Daley now crochets jumpers, cardigans and a woolly pair of swimming trunks which he posted on his knitting Instagram web page @madewithlovebytomdaley. That very same web page featured a vibrant unicorn he made for his two-year-old son and his model of a £1,750 Gucci halter-neck which he crocheted with “a little bit of leftover yarn”.

It’s onerous to know what to anticipate from him now however, aged 27, Daley heads to Tokyo for his fourth Olympics. He’ll dive once more within the particular person in addition to the synchronised – this time with Matty Lee. As at all times there is likely to be drama and tears, despair or pleasure.

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