Tom Daley says the prospect of his young son watching him compete at the Olympics is “overwhelming” and admits fatherhood made him more determined to rediscover his love of diving.
Tokyo 2020 will be the 27-year-old’s fourth successive Games and first since he welcomed the arrival of son Robbie, who will turn three later this month, with husband Dustin Lance Black.
Two-time bronze medallist Daley was included in Great Britain’s 12-person diving team on Wednesday and acknowledges developments in his personal life have altered his perspective on sport.
“I used to define myself by diving and if I dived well that reflected on me as a person,” he said.
“Now I’m first and foremost a father and a husband; diving obviously is extremely important to me but I also have other important things in my life, mainly being my son.
“Perspective shifts, it’s just changed the way that I think about going into these competitions and the way that I put pressure on myself.
“I want to be able to show that you can work really hard for something and enjoy it at the same time because for a while in my diving career, I wasn’t.
“Working so hard and putting so much pressure on myself, it’s hard to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love the feeling of being under pressure all the time’, because it can be difficult.
“So learning to deal with that, overcome that and see it from a different point of view, it just makes me excited to get out there and compete.
“The thought that my son is going to be able to watch me compete at an Olympic Games – even if it is on TV – is very exciting, overwhelming and kind of surreal to me.”
After making his Olympic debut in Beijing aged just 14, Daley finished third in the 10m platform at London 2012 before repeating that feat alongside Daniel Goodfellow in the 10m synchro at Rio 2016.
His ongoing quest for gold will once again come in those events, with Matty Lee set to be his partner on this occasion.
The pair, coached by Jane Figueiredo, triumphed in last month’s FINA Diving World Cup in Tokyo, which doubled as a Test event for the upcoming Games.
With the rescheduled Olympics – which runs from July 23 to August 8 – going ahead amid a global coronavirus pandemic and growing opposition in the host city, Daley says the recent competition in the Japanese capital left him “very reassured” regarding safety measures.
“It actually blew me away because before I didn’t know how it was going to work,” he said
“We’d been given all this protocol. But it was very reassuring to see it being so heavily enforced; there was somebody on every single corner, enforcing masks, enforcing distance, enforcing all of these things.
“I feel very reassured that they know what they need to do to keep it safe.”
The team for Tokyo also includes reigning Olympic champion Jack Laugher and Daley’s current and former partners Lee and Goodfellow, along with Eden Cheng, James Heatly, Scarlett Mew Jensen, Grace Reid, Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, Katherine Torrance, Lois Toulson and Noah Williams.
Having already won world, European and Commonwealth titles in his career, Daley is understandably eager to add Olympic gold to his enviable list of honours.
“I think any athlete would be lying if they said that they didn’t want to win an Olympic gold because it’s every athletes’ dream. And obviously that one has eluded me for my diving career so far,” he said.
“I have to get to the start line in one piece and be there ready to compete at my best on that day with no regrets doing everything I possibly could have so I know that I couldn’t have done any more.
“I just have to very much focus on my own performance, results will look after themselves. But, of course, it’s always been a dream of mine.”
Leeds-born Lee will make his Olympic debut at the age of 23. His elevation to the pinnacle of the sport was partly inspired by team-mate Daley.
“When I was younger, I was literally a fan of Tom’s. Everyone was,” said Lee.
“He was so young and so good, winning World Championships at 14-15, so I’ve looked up to him for ages. I have memories of watching London and Rio – I can’t remember watching him at Beijing, I was quite young then.
“To know he’s now my synchro partner is weird – there’s a photo of me and him the first time we met and I’m just a little kid. It’s funny how things have all worked out and now he’s one of my best mates and my synchro partner.
“Some people don’t realise what he’s done. Those sort of athletes don’t come around often across sport in the whole world.
“You have to give him praise for that as it’s crazy what he’s done and he’s still performing really well to this day.”
Great Britain diving team: Eden Cheng, Tom Daley, Daniel Goodfellow, James Heatly, Jack Laugher, Matty Lee, Scarlett Mew Jensen, Grace Reid, Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, Katherine Torrance, Lois Toulson, Noah Williams.
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