Tom Daley’s competitive drive will never leave him but the two-time Olympic medallist has recently been focusing on becoming a more well-rounded human being.
This newfound zen appears to be paying dividends on the diving board as it helped him fight to a second medal at the European Championships on Sunday – a silver in the 10m platform.
Daley has been open about the fact that his marriage to Dustin Lance Black in 2017 and the birth of their son Robbie in June 2018 has helped give him a new perspective on diving, as well as move past the disappointment of the Rio 2016 Olympics that saw him fail to advance beyond the semi-finals in the 10m platform.
Just this week, Daley shared a video on Instagram of two-year-old Robbie – back at home – watching his dad collect the 10m synchro gold he won alongside Matty Lee in Budapest, exclaiming “that’s my papa” in a moment that can’t have failed to melt the hearts of everyone who saw it.
And after winning 10m platform silver to double the medal haul, Daley’s thoughts immediately turned to reuniting with his family in the next 24 hours.
“I’ve always said that this is a great medal to win but my biggest medal is waiting at home for me – my son and my husband – so I’m very excited to get back to them,” he beamed.
“I get to enjoy diving, enjoy performing and competing but what this year has really taught us is what’s important – friends, family and everyone staying healthy.”
Daley has also taken up knitting, as well as practising mindfulness, to keep himself on track mentally and he needed to call on those reserves after a mistake during his second-round dive left him languishing in fifth on the leaderboard.
He responded with a solid third-round effort before nailing his Armstand Back 3 Somersaults Pike in round four, earning a brilliant 99.75 points, but the best was yet to come.
With a 3.7 degree of difficulty, Daley’s Forward 4½ Somersaults Tuck in round five was a make-or-break moment and the Brit rose to the occasion with perfect execution – scoring a mammoth 109.15 on a day when no other competitor cleared 100 points for a single dive.
It catapulted him into the silver medal position and although the consistency of Russia’s Aleksandr Bondar proved too great to catch, Daley secured second spot with his final dive, as another Russian –Viktor Minibaev – took bronze and GB’s Noah Williams finished a creditable fifth.
“I started off really strongly but the second dive was a little bit too strong and I landed slightly over from vertical,” explained Daley.
“One thing I’ve learned from my years in diving is it’s not over until it’s over. I was way down the rankings but I knew that I could pull it back – I just had to stay in the moment, stay present, stay focused.
“Then in the fifth round, I did the highest-scoring dive I’ve ever done in my diving career but it was a mixed bag in there.”
Thumbs up if you just won another medal 👍— Team GB (@TeamGB) May 16, 2021
A 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒃 𝒔𝒊𝒍𝒗𝒆𝒓 for @TomDaley1994 in the 10m platform final 👏
Added to his synchro gold from earlier in the European Champs and that's a pretty good haul 😏 pic.twitter.com/iw7S1b8CDx
Daley will now head home to Dustin and Robbie, with two European medals in tow, but it will soon be back to the grind with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games less than 70 days away.
Despite being just 26 years old, it will be his fourth Olympics and he’s promised to get back to the Daley we saw at Beijing 2008 – a diver with no fear, who relishes the opportunity to be stepping on the platform at the biggest sporting event in the world.
“I’m excited for the Olympics this summer because I’m going to go there and enjoy it, like I did in Beijing 2008 without all that pressure that I put on myself later in my career,” said Daley.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a diving competition – that’s the beauty of it. If we did that competition again right now, you could shuffle a pack of cards and it might be completely different.
“No matter how well you’ve trained, what ends up happening in the Olympic Games is all here [points to head]. If you don’t have it there, it’s over.
“By the time you’re on the diving board, it’s 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical. I’m excited to go there and have some fun.”
Elsewhere on Sunday at the Europeans, Grace Reid and Kat Torrance narrowly missed out on a medal as they finished fourth in the women's 3m synchro final, just 0.3 points behind bronze.
Photo Credit: British Swimming