Olympic Secrets: Knitting is Tom Daley's Tokyo 2020 'secret weapon'

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

Countless major medals, a charming personality, 'pop star' good looks and becoming an LGBT+ spokesperson have helped make Tom Daley a global icon.

Over a decade may have passed since the then pint-sized diver burst into the nation's consciousness at Beijing 2008, but his army of eight million social media followers still see the fresh-faced 26-year-old as an ongoing youthful success story.

Daley - who has married Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and became a father in the past three years - views his life a little differently though.

"I used to be the baby of the team, now I'm the granddad," he tells BBC Sport.

"There are loads of things I'm doing to keep myself going, like yoga and visualisation, but I've also taken up knitting, which could be my secret weapon.

"It's part of my mindfulness routine, a way of escaping from everything for a while, and I've made all kinds of things like scarves and little hats for my son [Robbie]."

In a wide-ranging interview for BBC Sport's Olympic Secrets series, the diver and Athens Olympic silver medallist Leon Taylor - Daley's former mentor - look back on his life story from when the pair met in 2005.

You can watch Olympic Secrets with Tom Daley from 19:00 BST on Thursday, 16 July via BBC Red Button and on BBC iPlayer.

Winning in the pool but bullied at school

Tom Daley, aged 14, holding a Union Jack flag
A 14-year-old Daley was the youngest member of the Team GB squad at Beijing 2008

Daley's talent was identified long before his Olympic debut and TV crews began documenting his career shortly after London was awarded the 2012 Games in July 2005.

They were there for his first national titles and maiden world success, but were also present at the teenager's cross country PE lessons, and even his GCSE exams.

Not all appreciated the attention he was receiving.

"That whole period was so surreal because some people were happy with what I'd achieved, but others started being horrible and I was bullied and had to move schools," Daley recalls.

"There were so many pressures and although I was happy with what I'd achieved some bad things came of it as well."

Living with grief and wanting to quit the sport

Tom Daley with his husband Dustin Lance Black
Daley married Dustin Lance Black in 2017

Rob Daley, Tom's father, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2006 and despite numerous treatments he died on 27 May 2011.

The diver unsurprisingly says it was "heartbreaking" that his "biggest cheerleader" could not be there to see him win Olympic bronze at London 2012, but it was only after the Games he began to fully deal with his "traumatic" loss.

"Everything I'd ever planned was for London 2012 and when that was over I had this massive crash and that's when I really started to fully grieve for my dad," he says.

"I was also wondering if I'd achieved everything I ever could in diving and by February [2013] I just didn't want to put my body through it anymore."

Daley met his now husband a few months later while filming in Los Angeles and admits that changed the entire direction of not only his career, but his life.

"That year was a whirlwind until I came out in December," recalls the diver. "Meeting Lance really changed everything and I realised how much pressure I'd been putting on myself to be someone I wasn't."

'My perspective has changed for Tokyo 2020' - Daley

Tom Daley with his son Robbie
Tom and Dustin welcomed their son, Robbie Ray, in 2018

Although Daley claimed the second Olympic medal of his career with synchronised 10m bronze at Rio 2016, the diver admits he struggles to remember any positives from those Games following his shock semi-final elimination in the individual competition.

However, four years on he now has a different outlook.

"Back then it really felt like the end of the world, so I wish I could transport back and just tell myself that everything's going to be OK," he says.

"I got married the next year, we have an amazing son and it's only now that I'm a parent that I have perspective about what really matters in life.

"I'm super motivated for Tokyo and to have my family all there would make success mean even more."

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