Tom Daley and his diving partner, Matty Lee, brought home a gold medal for Team Great Britain Monday, after narrowly winning the 10-meter synchronized diving at the Tokyo Olympics.
The victory was especially meaningful for Daley in his second Olympics as an openly gay man.
“I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” said Daley who was visibly emotional. “And I feel very empowered by that because when I was younger, I thought I was never going to be anything, or achieve anything, because of who I was, and to be an Olympic champion now just shows that you can achieve anything.”
Daley and Lee had produced a stunning performance in the synchronised 10m platform to take the gold medal by one point ahead of the supercharged Chinese pair Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen.
For Daley this was also a very public moment of fulfilment after bronze medals in London and Rio, a period that has coincided with marriage to the film producer Dustin Lance Black and the birth of their son, Robbie.
In the glow of victory, Daley spoke with startling clarity about the pressures he has faced in the course of a life lived in a uniquely pitched public glare.
Daley came out in 2013 shortly after he began dating his now-husband, Dustin Lance Black. He said at that time he “felt like the one that was alone and different and didn’t fit in.”
Now, he said, “I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. That you can achieve anything and that there is a whole lot of your chosen family out here, ready to support you.”
Daley won bronze medals at the London Games in 2012 and the Rio Olympics in 2016. Monday’s gold-medal win was a long time coming after two third-place finishes.
“To finally have this gold medal — I’ve been diving for 20 years. It’s my fourth Olympic Games,” Daley said after his victory. “Lots of people would have counted me out, being the older person, but I’m in the best shape, physically.”
Daley’s American-born husband won a screenwriting Oscar in 2008 for “Milk,” the biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk.
The couple married in 2017 and had their first child, a son, the following year.
“The fact that I can say my son watched me become an Olympic champion, albeit on TV because they couldn’t be here, is such a great feeling,” Daley said.
Daley was also asked about his father, who died when he was 17, and who was a major support in those early years. “When he passed away in 2011 it was extremely difficult for me because he never saw me win an Olympic medal, get married, have a child. He never got to teach me to drive, have a pint down the pub.
“None of that was ever a thing so to finally become an Olympic champion, especially after Rio 2016 where I was extremely disappointed with my individual performance. After that, my husband said to me that my story doesn’t end here and that our child was meant to watch me become an Olympic champion.”