Tom Daley: 'I wanted to quit diving, but meeting Lance was the turning point'

Tom Daley
Tom Daley

Tom Daley was chuffed to bits when he won a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympics, but there’s only one medal colour on his mind now – gold.

The 22-year-old diver Tom Daley is heading to Rio full of confidence, but in his new ITV documentary, Diving For Gold, he reveals that the road to his third Olympics has been a rocky one. Tom, who’s been followed by the documentary’s crew for the past four years, was left mentally scarred by a disastrous twister dive in the 10m platform final at the last games.

A distracting flash from a spectator’s camera halfway through the dive caused him to lose control and he so was left so upset by the incident that he needed treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Here he tell TV Times how he even thought about quitting diving, why his relationship with his fiance, Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, helped him fall back in love with the sport – and his Bake Off dream…

Will you be shattered if you don’t win a gold medal in Rio? “If you don’t win it’s gutting. You get one shot every four years. You get six dives and if you mess one of them up, that’s it, you’re out. I think that’s why the post-Olympics slump is so hard because you know you’ve got another four years of hard work to get another shot. You have to go in there fighting for that gold medal. My mentality going into a competition is: ‘They have to beat me’. I’m taking part in the 10m platform and alongside Dan Goodfellow in the synchronised 10m.”

Why did you agree to make this documentary? “I think people watching diving or athletics just see the glamour of competitors winning medals and going to all of these exotic places, they don’t see the struggle of what it actually takes to be at the top of your sport.

"For me after 2012 it was a massive struggle to get back to diving. I didn’t have much time off, but in that time I experienced what it was like to be an 18-year-old going out and drinking for the first time. It was tough to get back into the pool, especially with the situation that I had then with my twisting dive. It kind of ruled my life. I believed that if I walked through a door without realising somebody was behind me and didn’t hold it open for them that, ‘Oh my God something was going to happen…'”

So, it was like a superstitious fear? “Yeah, I was always thinking about it. I was just so superstitious about it and I was terrified standing on the end of that board. I was also struggling with injury. It was so mentally and physically draining that it really took me a while to get back into diving, to the point where I wanted to quit.”

What finally made you want to get back into the pool? “Meeting Lance [the couple met in spring 2013]. I think that was a turning point for me because he’s so successful in what he does it inspired me and drove me to get back on the horse.”

In the documentary we see you take the decision two years ago to reveal your relationship with Lance to the world in a YouTube video. Your youngest brother, Ben, said he was worried by how his classmates would react – what reaction did he get? “Ben [who was 15 at the time] was actually pleasantly surprised because people came up to him saying things like, ‘Tom’s video helped my brother say something to me’. I didn’t do it to be this big thing, it’s like a non-issue, but I got messages that it helped so many people. I was in an airport when an old lady in a wheelchair came over and said: ‘I just want to thank you because my son for the first time was able to tell me that he was gay.'”

You’ve developed a new dive called the ‘firework’, so you don’t have to perform the dreaded twister in Rio. How did you develop it? “When I began my second year of training with my new coach, Jane Figueiredo, she said: ‘We should definitely learn a new dive’. The next thing I know she gets out her iPad and shows me an acrobat on a Russian swing flipping into the air before performing two and a half sommersaults including a twist. And I was like, ‘Jane how on earth are we going to be able to do that off a diving board?’

"The biggest risk in diving is learning a new dive, but Jane’s mentality is she’d rather risk it all to be top than to play safe for third or fourth.”

Your dad Rob passed away in 2011, he must still figure heavily when it comes to motivating you to win a gold in Rio? “Of course, it was always my dad’s dream. He was there for every competition, whether it was domestic or international. First of all the dream was to go to the national age group championships, we went and I won.

"Next, we went to the senior nationals and I won. It kind of escalated way quicker than we could ever have imagined. It was heartbreaking not having him there to witness my bronze medal in London.”

What are you going to do after the Olympics? “For the first week I will eat whatever I want without thinking about it. If I see something I want in a coffee shop, I’ll go: ‘Yeah, I’ll have one of those muffins!’ I really do have a very sweet tooth and I’m a very keen baker. I’ve got the art of making a cheesecake down to a T.”

So, would you love to appear on Celebrity Bake Off? “The dream! The dream!”


David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years working for TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer for TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!