Words: Alastair James; Photography: Eddie Blagbrough
The country held its breath as Tom Daley and his diving partner Matty Lee’s Chinese rivals took to the springboard for their last dive in the men’s 10-metre synchronised event at the Tokyo Olympics. Was this going to be the moment — seemingly a lifetime in the making — that the 27-year-old Daley would finally clinch Olympic gold?
As it turned out, yes. Thirteen years after his debut in Beijing, and in his fourth Olympic Games, Tom Daley won his long-awaited gold medal, becoming the first Team GB diver to win four Olympic medals. As such, he is truly deserving of this year’s Sport Award supported by Jaguar at the 2021 Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards, powered by Jaguar.
Ever since he stepped onto the Olympic stage at 14, Daley has been a sporting hero. The significance of striking gold was not lost on Tom, who talked about his experiences growing up in his victory speech.
“I always felt like the one that was alone and different and didn’t fit in and there was always something about me that was always never going to be as good as society wanted me to be. I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone and that you can achieve anything.”
In the Attitude Awards issue - out now to download and to order globally - Tom says: “As a kid, I always dreamed of becoming an Olympic champion. I always knew I could, but I never thought it would actually happen.
The Attitude Awards issue is out now to download and to order globally. Tom wears swimwear by adidas (Photography: Eddie Blagbrough; Fashion: Joseph Kocharian; Professional fashion assistant: Sacha Dance)
"After 20 years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice, I finally did it! I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion.”
Aside from his Olympic haul (one gold and three bronze, the first of which came on home soil in 2012), the diver from Plymouth can also boast (not that he actually will) 11 World, Commonwealth, and European Championship gold medals.
Tom has credited becoming a dad to his three-year-old son, Robbie, for changing his perspective and taking the pressure off, which he thinks helped his performance in Tokyo.
“Going into these Olympic Games, I knew that even if I did really well or really terribly, I was going to go home and be loved regardless,” he said.
Tom has also inspired people out of the water. When he came out in a YouTube video in 2013, he provided many, especially younger LGBTQ+ people, with someone to look up to. And that’s something he’s proud of, too, as he told us when he appeared in Attitude in July.
Tom wears swimwear by adidas (Photography: Eddie Blagbrough; Fashion: Joseph Kocharian; Professional fashion assistant: Sacha Dance)
Since then, he’s used his platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights, including calling out homophobia in sport at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Currently, 36 out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality.
“It’s an absolute honour to win the Attitude Sport Award,” Tom shares. “Visibility for the LGBTQ community is so important and there were more out athletes in Tokyo than before.
"This being said, there were still ten competing countries where being LGBTQ+ is punishable by death and I want to make it my mission to create change. Not just to talk about it but to action it as well.”
And how could we not mention Tom’s knitting? We can’t say for sure if the images of Tom getting creative on his downtime in Tokyo have attracted more people to the hobby, but we can imagine that it’s got people thinking about it.
Maybe he can knit his Attitude award a cosy to match the one he made for his Olympic gold...
The Attitude Awards issue is out now.