Seeing Tom Daley heartbroken and tearful last summer when his dream of winning gold at Rio 2016 was crushed, was one of the saddest, but most memorable moments of the Olympics.
How much has changed since then. The 23-year-old has found personal happiness – he married American Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, 43, in May – and is determined to become an Olympic champion.
The signs are looking good after he recently won his first individual World Championship gold for eight years in the 10m platform final in Budapest.
Here he opens up about what makes him tick, why he feels like a “granddad” and how his husband helps power his sporting career….
How’s life at the moment?
“It’s great. I still love diving. That disappointment at the Rio Olympics has turned into fuel for the fire to power me up to do better next time.
“I learnt a lot from that experience, am focusing on what I can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and feel on track to do well in the future. What’s also great is that my sport’s always opening me up to fun, unexpected opportunities.”
Tom’s promoting the new HTC U11 squeezable waterproof phone.
“It’s a totally new way to take selfies. I even captured myself mid-dive and have taken some of my favourite diving shots ever.”
What’s it like being married?
“The wedding was amazing, and you want that moment to last forever, but at the same time, it’s nice to get back to work and normality. We’re a married couple and life goes on.
“Being married makes a couple feel a lot more secure and is really nice. We’re based in London together, although Lance has to split his time between America and the UK because of his work, but he’s spending more time in the UK currently, which is great.
“When we’re apart, we FaceTime every day and when we get back together, it’s extra special. We understand each other’s work, passion and commitment, and you just have to make it work for both of you.”
Do you notice the 20-year age gap between you and Lance?
“I don’t really think about age, and we never notice the age gap. Funnily enough, I feel older in terms of maturity. I had to grow up quickly because I was only 10 when I first travelled to Australia without my parents to compete.
“In a way, I did miss out on some aspects of childhood because I had to learn to do things for myself and stand on my own two feet quite quickly, but, on the other hand, I was so lucky to be able to travel and have so many experiences.
“Over the last few years I’ve matured both as an athlete and as a person and I’m in a good place in my mind and body. Actually, when I’m with the diving squad nowadays, I feel old because basically I’m the ‘granddad’ in the team – everyone’s younger than me!”
Did Lance help save your career?
“Yes he did. The 2012 Olympics was such a high, but once it was over, I felt really down in the dumps. You don’t really look beyond the event which you’ve spent four years preparing for and so there’s a bit of a comedown. At one point after it, I didn’t want to dive again.
“Meeting Lance during that period was amazing because he’s so motivated about his career and enjoys what he does so much that he helped rekindle my motivation and made me work harder.
“I literally fell in love with everything again and rediscovered my excitement in diving. He was exactly what I needed.”
How do you feel about the loss of your father who died in 2011?
“I’m always going to miss him and think about him every single day, wondering what he would have said or thought about this or that. He was so supportive, took me to every single training session, every competition, whether it was domestic or international, and was always there waving a massive flag. I’ll never stop missing his presence.
“I like to think he’d be proud of everything I’ve achieved so far. He taught me so many lessons, some of which are only now making sense.
“When you’re young, you think your parents are embarrassing and always saying and doing the wrong things, but as you get older you really appreciate how right they were about so much.”
What’s got you through the tough times in life?
“Family and friends, of course, especially when I lost Dad, which was one of the toughest moments of my life. Generally, I think you need a sense of humour so you don’t take things too personally. If I’m in a bad mood or just need a bit of cheering up, food makes me happy.
“I love a sweet treat like ice cream or cheesecake, which stems from when I was a kid and if I’d had a bad training session, my Dad would miraculously appear with something sweet to sort me out.
“Nowadays, I cook every day because I find it so therapeutic whacking together a few ingredients and being creative and seeing what happens. It’s such a break from diving. One day I’d love to have my own TV cookery show.”
What are your tips for getting fit and looking after your wellbeing?
“I’ve practised mindfulness for 18 months – just 10 minutes every morning – and it’s made a massive difference to me. I was a big sceptic, but it’s made me feel much more peaceful and calm because it’s about living in the moment.
“Exercise, is key, of course, and people wrongly think you have to spend hours a day in the gym. Actually you don’t. All you need is simple equipment and you can train in your living room. I’d suggest one or two 20-minute sessions of high intensity interval training (HIIT) daily. That gets your body moving and helps build muscle.
“Ensure you eat within 20 minutes of a workout. Choose healthy snacks such as slices of ham, a handful of almonds or fruit. Sometimes before bed, I have a teaspoon of almond butter or peanut butter, which gives me enough protein to get me through the night.”
How do you see the future?
“Lance and I definitely want a family in the future – who knows when? We’re both lucky to have supportive families and we want to share that with our own children.”
Tom Daley is an ambassador for the HTC U11 – a smartphone that features the world’s first squeezy selfie function.
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