Tom Daley is explaining how he will beat the boredom of an Olympic bubble. ‘I have lots of things to keep me occupied, like my obsession with knitting and crochet,’ says the diver, who will be making his fourth appearance for Team GB in Tokyo.
‘I’m planning on bringing a whole extra suitcase of yarn because I’m not going to be allowed out of the village to go to the shops. I want to make sure I’m well stocked.’
Knitting is something Daley took up in lockdown last year, even launching another Instagram page to showcase his creations, one of which he has auctioned off for charity.
Tom Daley has revealed that he has developed an ‘obsession with knitting and crochet’
It is not just his hobbies, however, that have changed significantly since Rio 2016. He is also now a husband and father – two roles he admits have transformed the way he sees his sport.
‘I used to define myself by diving,’ says the 27-year-old. ‘I was a diver and if I dived well that reflected on me as a person. Now I’m first and foremost a father and a husband. Diving is extremely important to me, but I also have other important things in my life, mainly being my son.
‘So whether I have good performance or a bad performance, I know that I can go home to my family that are going to love me regardless. There’s something really comforting in that, which has allowed me to take the pressure off myself to go out there and actually enjoy it.’
Daley said while diving is ‘extremely important’, he is ‘first and foremost a father and husband’
Daley married American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black in 2017 and they had their first child, Robbie, by surrogacy a year later. ‘The thought that my son is going to be able to watch me compete at Olympic Games, even if it is on TV, is very exciting, overwhelming and kind of surreal to me,’ says the man who memorably made his Olympic debut in Beijing 2008 aged only 14.
Daley then went on to become one of the poster boys of London 2012, where he won bronze in the 10-metre platform, before claiming the same colour medal in the synchronised event alongside Daniel Goodfellow at Rio 2016. He has also twice won the individual 10m title at the World Championships – first when he was 15 in 2009, then as recently as 2017, where he beat Olympic champion Chen Aisen of China.
Daley made his Olympic debut aged just 14 at Beijing 2008
Reflecting on his 13-year Olympic journey so far, Daley says: ‘In 2008, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. It was all about the experience and I wanted to just soak it up as much as possible.
‘In 2012, there was that feeling of home crowd advantage but also pressure. I don’t think there will ever be a more pressurised feeling of standing in front of a home crowd in an Olympic Games.
‘Then going into 2016, I felt like I was at my peak. I put some pressure on myself and that was quite an intense Olympics for me. Going into this one, I don’t want to say I’m “Zen” about it, but I no longer define myself by my performance.’
That mindset means Daley is not letting himself get hung up on the one gold medal that has eluded him in his illustrious career. That said, his form since he returned to diving after the coronavirus shutdown has suggested he is diving better than ever.
At a World Cup event in Tokyo in May, Daley won two golds – in the synchro, with new partner Matty Lee, and in the individual, with a score that would have seen him secure silver in Rio. He followed that form up at the recent European Championships in Budapest, with another synchro gold and individual silver.
‘I’ve got the potential to be the best that I’ve ever been this time around for the Olympics,’ he admits. ‘The big difference that I’m noticing isn’t necessarily in my diving, but in the mind. My mental ability and my perspective changes have been so different that I just feel a lot more confident going into competitions.
Daley, pictured at the London 2012 victory parade, said Tokyo 2020 could be his best moment
‘Every athlete’s dream is to win an Olympic gold medal and obviously that one has eluded me in my diving career so far. But I just have to get to the start line in one piece and be there ready to compete my best on that day and with no regrets.’
Should Daley not manage to complete his collection this summer, he may still get another chance to do so as he plans to carry on to Paris in three years’ time.
‘I’ve always said I will go as long as my body will let me and so far we’re still going strong,’ he adds. ‘This past year in the pandemic, I’ve been able to focus on my body and not just what you can do in the pool. The stuff outside like yoga, stretching, gyrotonics- all of these things I’ve been doing has helped preserve my body.
‘When I was younger, I always said I wanted to do five Olympics and that would take me to 30-years-old. If my body will let me, I’m here for the ride.’ What a ride it has already been.