Daley’s dive into the unknown: a sad reflection on British society

Olympic Bronze Medalist Tom Daley

Olympic Bronze Medallist Tom Daley

TOM DALEY was born on the 21st May 1994. As a 19-year old he is already a world champion and an Olympic Bronze Medallist. He got straight A’s in his GCSE’s and I don’t doubt his academic success continued when he sat his A-Levels this summer. On the surface it appears as if he has it all.

On Monday 2nd December 2013, he made the courageous decision to post via his own YouTube Channel that he was in a relationship with a man, although he stressed that he was still attracted to women. In declaring this, he follows in the footsteps of Gareth Thomas and England Wicket-Keeper Steven Davies in ‘coming out’ as a professional sportsman.

Daley also discloses that some members of his own family did not understand his sexual orientation, and urged him to “keep quiet”. A vow of silence would have been for his own protection, his nearest and dearest wanting to shield him from the inevitable barbs that would come his way. I saw a comment on Facebook last night in a feed that read “Who the fuck’s Tom Daley?”, and the comment below by someone I do not know was “He was drowning in pussy but now he likes dick”. It is such misunderstandings that his family must have been so acutely aware of, having already lived with the hype of being related to an Olympic Athlete when the games were held at home.

This is what makes sport so much more than what you see on the winners’ podium. Young Daley and all other sportsmen and women are placed under such intense scrutiny that many crack, regardless of their individual talent. In recent weeks, one of England’s best cricketers Jonathan Trott has left the prestigious Ashes Tour in Australia because of a stress-related illness.

From the outside looking in it is all too easy to judge. Daley is living the dream. He now flies away to Houston to train before jetting back for Christmas. But the difference is the relentlessness of the grey matter in between your ears. It is unsurprising that many in the sporting arena find the pressure unbearable. Those with no knowledge of training and competition fire back criticism based largely upon that old adage “Well if you can’t stand the heat…”. That is beside the point. In any other profession from an archaeologist to a zookeeper you are allowed days off, days when you cannot be bothered and the world is weighing you down. Not in Sport.

Daley has had to deal with bullying at school and the death of his father in 2011, arranging his education around competition and the glare of the cameras at the London Games. The flip side is that he has made his bed and now he has to lie in it, but he would never have known that it was made of nails. He has always been honest in a world of clichés, dealing with stardom with a smile.

It reflects poorly on our society that the 10-metre platform diver felt compelled to declare his sexuality to the world. The blame is not to be lain at his door, rather that of a society obsessed with image and status. I fail to see why it is so shocking when a gay man ‘comes out’, if all he has ever known is being gay or bi-sexual or bi-curious. Why is it newsworthy? The interest is fuelled by society’s inability to accept anything that bucks the trend.

We should applaud Tom Daley for his courage to stick his head above the parapet. When he posted the video he did it in full knowledge of the backlash that would ensue. Bore off with your backlash. At the heart of his message was comfort. He feels comfortable with this man he is seeing, and in the relationship he can hide away from the analysis of elite sport.

Daley is very aware of his role-model status, and how the fame has changed his life. At least that is how it comes across. Irrespective of his success in the pool he seems to be unchanged from his formative years, and maybe his partner allows him to regress, regardless of gender. Honourably Tom keeps the anonymity of his partner, permitting him to keep living his life the way it is. In return with his same-sex partner Tom will not be ‘Tom the Diver‘ or ‘Tom off of Splash’, but rather, just Tom. We should be happy for him rather than pointing fingers.

The biggest difference between Tom Daley and you is not that he is bi-sexual and you are straight. The biggest difference between you and Tom Daley is that he has an Olympic Bronze Medal. The closest most people get to bronze is in a tanning booth.