Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Tom Daley is a brave young man for taking the courageous step to come out today. He already has "rock star" athlete status (and was a ratings star on the reality show Splash! in the UK), but then he decided to come forward and admit he's in a relationship with a man. We've come a long way! But we still have much further to go.
I met this diving phenom three or four years ago at the World Junior Championships in Tucson, AZ. Kind and polite, Tom always had a smile; he's a very gentle soul. He happened to be injured then, so I didn't have the opportunity to see him dive Platform, his best event at that time. I was impressed with his diving, but I must say, I was even more taken with the gentle kindness he showed everyone— friends and fans alike. Having been named "Athlete Mentor" by Steve Foley, high performance director for USA Diving, of course I followed Tom and the other divers preparing for the London Olympics.
I haven't forgotten another young man who "came out" prior to an Olympic Games, Australia's Matthew Mitcham, and how it made me think, How brave! For me, this doesn't call into question whether I should have come out before I competed, since it was a different political climate, but I was struck by Matthew's story and how he felt that, in order to be all he could be, he first had to be honest.
That is the one thing that rings true in Tom's YouTube message: to be honest, to not live life behind a veil of secrecy, and to have the courage to be just who God made you to be.
Being gay is not a choice, and I believe it was very smart of Tom to "share" his story before his travel to Houston for a training camp. He certainly didn't have to do it, but now he can focus on his passion, diving. This also couldn't come at a more poignant time because of what is happening in Russia and the country's "anti gay propaganda laws" and persecution of LGBT people in that country. And they aren't the only ones.
I am not a world leader; Matthew is not a world leader; Tom is not a world leader; we were and are world-class divers. In our own small way, we've tried to make this world a better, more understanding, and accepting place.
Tom Daley, I love you as my little brother and always will. Actually, I just realized I'm old enough that I could be your father! But no one can take that place. You may have broken some young ladies' hearts, but time mends all wounds, and if your journey mirrors mine in at all, those broken hearts will become you greatest allies!
Now my advice as a "mentor": Time to focus on your diving and stay healthy; remaining in world-class shape, always on that edge of health and injury, is difficult. Listen to your body.
What more can I say but that you are loved.