He’s been part of Britain’s Olympic fabric since making his debut as a 14-year-old at the 2008 games in Beijing. Thirteen years on Tom Daley can finally call himself an Olympic champion.
At the Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Monday, Team GB diving duo Daley and Matty Lee produced the performance of a lifetime to secure gold in the men’s synchronised 10m platform. For Lee, 23, it was gold in his first games, for Daley, 27, it marks the culmination of a remarkable career after bronze medals at London 2012 and in Rio five years ago.
In a nail-biting finale the British pair watched on as China’s Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen conducted their final dive. Once it became clear they had ended China’s golden grip on the event, wild celebrations broke out as Daley and Lee realised their Olympic dreams had come true, the BBC reports.
On the podium there were tears of joy as Daley and Lee collected their gold medals. “It’s kind of unbelievable,” Daley said. “I’ve dreamt, as has Matty, since I started diving 20 years ago for this moment of becoming an Olympic champion.”
A gold medal speech
If there were Olympic medals given out for post-competition press conferences, Daley would be winning gold again, says The Independent’s Victoria Richards. His speech was a “perfect example of what makes Britain great”. He talked openly about being a gay man and an athlete, and encouraged young LGBTQ+ people not to feel discouraged.
“I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” Daley said. “When I was younger I didn’t think I’d ever achieve anything because of who I was. To be an Olympic champion now just shows that you can achieve anything.”
The story wasn’t finished
Daley is married to Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winning writer. In the “remarkable Tom Daley story”, he has had his every growing pain played out in front of millions. Now, he has his perfect ending, and nobody deserves it more, says The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown.
Daley was “heartbroken” after missing out on the 10m platform diving competition final in Rio. He revealed that it was his husband who encouraged him to have one final title at the games. “Neither could have guessed that the plan would culminate as exquisitely as this,” Brown added.
“It was my husband [Dustin Lance Black] who said to me my story wasn’t finished and that my son or child, we didn’t know at the time, needed to be there to watch me win an Olympic gold medal,” Daley said. “The fact that I can say my son watched me become Olympic champion, albeit on TV and they couldn’t be here, is such a great feeling. To be able to do it with your best mate as well and to share that moment. At the back of the podium when you’re by yourself, it’s all internalised, but when you have someone that’s done it with you, you don’t feel bad about saying ‘oh my goodness, we just bloody did amazing!’”
Long march to Olympic glory
“Adored and pilloried, loved but misunderstood, over-hyped yet under-appreciated”, Daley has always been a national treasure – but now he’s got the gold medal to go with it, says Alyson Rudd in The Times.
After previous Olympic disappointments and the death of his father in 2011, the tears on the podium in Tokyo reflect Daley’s long march to Olympic glory, says The Guardian’s Donald McRae. “All the hope, disappointment, despair and joy the British diver had endured these past 13 years were cleansed with Tokyo gold”.
‘I’m very, very proud of him’
The final word should be given to Matty Lee - who was just nine years old when he first met Daley. Due to Covid restrictions in Tokyo it was Lee who had the honour of placing Daley’s gold medal around his neck.
“It’s funny how things change,” Lee told TeamGB.com. “All those years back I was a fan, a little kid looking up to him. Now we’re best mates and Olympic gold medallists. To be able to put the well-deserved gold medal around his neck was really special to me, and I’m very, very proud of him. Obviously it’s my dream to be an Olympic gold medallist, but it’s great to be able to have won that with Tom.”