Tom Daley's decade of sporting success and disappointment, love, loss and parenthood

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Tom Daley
"You make me feel very old when you say it's been 10 years" - Tom Daley on a decade at the top of his sport

Multiple world titles and Olympic medals have made Tom Daley one of Britain's most recognisable sportsmen, but his fame transcends his sport.

In the decade since, as a 15-year-old schoolboy, he became Britain's first diving world champion, Daley has seen highs and lows, both in and out of the water.

He lost his father to cancer in 2011, won Olympic bronze at London 2012, publicly came out as gay, married US film director Dustin Lance Black, and became a spokesperson for LGBT+ rights.

Daley also came close to quitting the sport in both 2016 and 2018 before the arrival of his son Robbie, something he says could prolong his sporting career beyond what he hopes will be a "fairytale" Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.

"You make me feel very old when you say it's been 10 years," jokes Daley.

"When I think back to what happened then and what's happened since, it's crazy - I've always had to be ready for the next obstacle, but life experience definitely gives you mental toughness."

Before his bid to defend the world title he won two years ago, Daley and his Olympic silver medal-winning mentor Leon Taylor look back on his "phenomenal" decade.

July 2009: World gold and 'that' news conference

Tom Daley and his father Rob
Daley was lying third in the 10m platform final at the 2009 Worlds but scored 100.30 with his final effort to win gold - to the delight of his father

A 14-year-old Daley shot into the public consciousness at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when he was the youngest member of the Team GB squad, but gold at the 2009 Worlds proved he was the "real deal" Taylor had predicted when they met five years earlier.

"He was a young, precocious talent who would absorb every lesson and piece of advice like a sponge," said Taylor.

The diver's post-event news conference was memorably interrupted by his emotional father Rob, who - after being mistaken for a journalist - was given a microphone to ask a question.

Fighting back the tears, he said: "I represent Tom Daley. I'm Tom's dad. Tom, can you give me a cuddle? Come on, please, come on."

Daley reluctantly trudged towards his father and muttered "this is slightly embarrassing", but admits now it was a "special" moment.

"It's one of my fondest memories with my dad," he says. "He was a blubbering wreck. I hope he would be proud of me today."

February 2012: Criticised, and compared to Kournikova

Tom Daley
British Diving's Alexei Evangulov said of Daley in 2012: "If he stopped all his media work now, I might be able to get him up to the third best diver"

Rob Daley died of cancer in 2011. Unsurprisingly, his son struggled at that year's World Championships.

But when Daley and synchronised partner Pete Waterfield finished seventh at the London World Cup six months later, British Diving performance director Alexei Evangulov suggested media commitments were behind the poor form.

The Russian warned that the London 2012 'poster boy' was in danger of becoming "another Anna Kournikova".external-link The Russian tennis star, said Evangulov, "never achieved her full potential" because of the "media exposure".

"It was a real test of his character," says Taylor. "He was criticised, wasn't the 'golden child' and people expected more, which was unfair. But he really dug in."

August 2012: Olympic bronze and 'saving' British Diving

Tom Daley celebrates his bronze medal from London 2012
Daley said he had "learned to stick up for himself" after various experiences in his career, before asking for a re-dive at London 2012

London 2012 had been a golden Games for so many British sports, but there was notable negativity around the London Aquatics Centre, with both divers and swimmers underperforming.

On the penultimate night, the stage was set for Daley to deliver. "It was like, 'over to you Tom - go and save the sport'," recalls Taylor. "And he did."

He needed a dramatic and controversial re-dive after flash photography from the crowd disrupted his first effort in the final, but Daley achieved his "dream" and secured the bronze that ensured UK Sport continued to fund the sport.

"No matter what the colour, the Olympic medal is so much more prestigious than any other medal," says Daley, who dived back into the pool with his fully clothed team-mates moments after the result was confirmed.

"It gave me something to show for all of the hard work, effort and sacrifices."

December 2013: Reveals relationship

Tom Daley
In response to the video, Daley tweeted to his 2.5 million followers: "Overwhelmed by all the support! Means the world! Thanks so much guys"

"In an ideal world I wouldn't be doing this video, because it shouldn't matter," said Daley in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

He was right, but his decision to announce publicly he was in a relationship with another man drew praise from around the world.

"I was never worried," says Daley. "The support and reaction was overwhelming. It made me feel so comfortable and happy because I'm able to be who I want to be."

August 2016: Olympic 'heartbreak'

tom Daley at Rio 2016
Daley had scored a personal best of 571.85 in the preliminary round of the 10m platform but could only manage a score of 403.25 in the semi-final

Rio was supposed to be Daley's golden goodbye, and he warmed up for his individual event with a brilliant synchronised bronze alongside Dan Goodfellow.

But triumph turned to tears when Daley, who had topped the standings during the preliminaries, went out in the 10m semi-finals.

"It was shock, disbelief, and something none of us could really explain, but it showed he was not a machine," says Taylor.

Daley says it was "heartbreaking", adding: "My mind and body just didn't connect, but what's done is done and I just have to make sure it doesn't happen again."

May 2017: Marries Dustin Lance Black

Tom Daley marries Dustin Lance Black
US film director Black won the best original screenplay Oscar for the 2008 film Milk

Two years after their engagement, Daley and Black wed.

Guests were not allowed to take mobile phones or cameras into the venue, and Taylor says that only added to the sense of celebration.

"It was just a wonderful day," he says. "There was an official photographer, but no-one stressing about selfies or their own photos which made it a beautiful day and ceremony."

July 2017: World Championship redemption

Tom Daley at the 2017 World Championships
Gold in Budapest in 2017 was Daley's first title for eight years

Daley returned to diving determined to prove doubters wrong and what followed - at the 2017 World Championships - was one of the greatest finals the sport has seen.

Taylor describes the epic battle between Daley and China's Olympic champion Chen Aisen as "a masterful display" and the Briton's "greatest performance" to date.

"He was written off, but it was the perfectly scripted battle of the champions and answered the critics perfectly when he won," says the 2004 Olympic silver medallist.

Daley, with an uncharacteristically stern look, recalls the Chinese "celebrating liked they'd already won the gold" and it giving him "more fire" than ever.

"I was like: 'Oh - you think you've won do you? We'll see about that.'"

February 2018: Pneumonia, concussion and glandular fever

Tom Daley at the Commonwealth Games in 2018
"I'll be using the rest of the year to spend time with my husband and new baby"

Daley was full of optimism heading into 2018, but rather than preparing for the new season in a sun-soaked location, he was in hospital.

"I started the off-season with pneumonia and never really recovered properly," he says. "I came back to training too early, then I got something similar to glandular fever.

"I was still trying to dive and ended up with some concussions and had stress responses in both shins."

He battled to synchronised Commonwealth gold with Goodfellow but then took a complete break from the sport and considered quitting for good.

June 2018: Daley the dad, and dealing with dirty nappies

Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black with baby Robbie
Baby Robbie's full name is Robert Ray Black-Daley and he was named after Daley's father Rob

Baby Robbie, named after the diver's late father, arrived last June via an American surrogate - and Daley says becoming a dad is "the best thing ever".

"It's incredible. It changes your perspective on everything and it's nice that diving isn't my whole world any more," he says.

"Robbie is like a cheeky little monkey, but he's the most adorable, sweetest and caring little kid who's growing up so quickly.

"It's hard being away from him, but it's amazing to come through the door after diving and see that lovely smiling face waiting for you - even if he has a dirty nappy, which grounds you immediately."

July 2019: More World Championship success

Tom Daley and Matty Lee
Daley and Matty Lee only teamed up to compete together late last year

Although he will not be officially selected until next year, Daley effectively secured a place at Tokyo 2020 - which will be his fourth Olympics - by winning World Championship bronze this week with Matty Lee.

"Having Robbie has actually helped me rediscover my love for diving which I think is showing in the results," Daley says.

"Everyone always asks when I'll retire and I always say as long as my body keeps going then I'll keep going."

Taylor, who believes Daley would have retired after Rio 2016 had he won gold, says the 25-year-old has transformed perceptions of diving in the UK forever.

"He's had a phenomenal career and brought diving greater exposure than it's ever had," he says. "We should enjoy the time he has left in the sport."