Tom Daley had been shattering expectations and boundaries for years by the time he came out in 2013. Between the ages of 13-16, he broke record after record, becoming the youngest gold medalist in the European Games, the youngest British competitor at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Britain's youngest world champion, and he took home two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.
However, after winning bronze at the London 2012 Olympics, Daley seemed to enter a bit of a funk. Three years later, he's back at the top of his game and settled into his serious relationship with Oscar-winning activist Dustin Lance Black. Daley recently spoke with Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian about his journey, his struggles, and his happiness. Here are five things we learned:
He has big hopes for Rio 2016:
“I feel much more mature going into 2016 than 2012,” [Daley] says, having completed his morning diving session. We’re sitting in the auditorium above the diving pool. Daley has changed from trunks to shorts, salmon-pink T shirt and trainers, and is talking about why Rio should come at the perfect time for him. “Divers tend to peak between 22 and 24,” he says. “I’ll be 22, so I should be approaching mine. I am stronger now, jumping higher, spinning faster, moving quicker than I ever have. I’m in love with diving right now.”
Post-London 2012 was a rough time:
Daley went back into training 10 days after the Olympics, settled down to his final year of A–levels (maths, Spanish, photography), and found himself at a loss. “Once, every four years, you get an opportunity to compete in the Olympics. You have these six dives that decide whether you’re an Olympic medallist or not, which is quite intense. And to come down after that high of winning a bronze medal was pretty tough. I tore my triceps, was suffering loads of injuries and it was a really weird year. You ask any Olympian what the year after the Olympics is like – you always get the Olympic blues. Things were going really crap, and there were times when I thought, ‘Oh my God, I really can’t believe I’m still doing this.’"
Diving is, very much, a contact sport:
He hits the water at 35mph, and has said that every time he dives it’s like a car crash. Even when he gets it right, it hurts. When he gets it horribly wrong, the consequences don’t bear thinking about. He says the fear is positive. “Every time you go up to the board, you get scared. It’s more like adrenaline, though – you feel pumped and ready to go.”
His is a life strictly regimented:
The training schedule is relentless. Daley does 11 sessions a week in the gym and dry dive, 11 pool sessions, and one session of ballet. Each session lasts between two and three hours. Then there’s the austere diet: egg whites and spinach and a bowl of porridge for breakfast, chicken and pulses for lunch, and salmon or chicken with steamed vegetables for dinner. Every day the same regime, same food, same 10pm bedtime. Daley currently has 6% body fat (most men his age average between 14% and 18%) and weighs 70kg. Before the World Championships start next week, he will lose another couple of kilos.
Meeting Dustin Lance Black was love at first site:
In March 2013, Daley went for dinner at a friend’s home in Los Angeles and met Dustin Lance Black, a screenwriter 20 years his senior who won an Oscar for Milk, the biopic of gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk. Daley says it was love at first sight. Until then, his only relationships had been with girls, but he had never been in love. Had he thought he might be gay? “I guess it has always been in the back of my head, but you never really know. I’d never had feelings for a person along those lines. I’d been in relationships with girls where I’d had sexual feelings, but it became so much more intense when I met Lance. I thought, ‘Whoa, this is weird. Why am I having these feelings for somebody?’”
Did that freak him out? He nods. “It freaked me a little bit initially, but then it was like, ‘OK, this makes sense’. Lots of things started to make sense.”
And on his saying he was still attracted to girls in his coming out video:
Does Black mind? “No, we joke about it sometimes. He actually sometimes has sexual feelings towards girls. Relationship, feelings… I’m with Lance, but you can appreciate anyone who’s hot!”
To read the full interview, visit The Guardian.