Tom Daley's rollercoaster ride to Olympic gold

Tom Daley’s journey to Olympic gold is a story two decades in the making and yet there was so very nearly a final cruel twist in the tale. 

It was only after he and Matty Lee held their nerve with a stunning sixth dive at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, and then breathed a huge sigh of relief as China’s Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen failed to overhaul them, that Daley revealed just how close he came to not flying to Japan. 

Just six weeks ago in June, Daley found himself unable to walk, with his knee locked because of a troublesome piece of cartilage. 

There was no other option but to go under the knife with his Olympic hopes hanging in the balance. 

“In June I tore my meniscus and underwent knee surgery. There was a chance that I wasn’t actually going to be able to be here in the first place,” he said.

“I had to get it removed at the beginning of June. There was a lot of visualisation, a lot of trust in my experience and the process of getting back.  

“They said it would be 4-6 weeks and it was six weeks by the time we left. I am just extremely happy and thankful for all the physios and doctors, strength coach, my coach for making it possible that we could even dive today. 

“It was something that apparently had been there for a while. It was just the fact that my meniscus, it flipped up and got stuck in my joint. I couldn’t straighten my leg. It was locked in this position, so I couldn’t walk or do anything. So it was either surgery – they explained the risks – but it’s either I can’t walk or surgery so I had to risk it.” 

That would have been so cruel on Daley, who had won bronze medals in London and Rio after making his debut as a 14-year-old all the way back in Beijing. 

The disappointment of Rio was hard to get over, but in the intervening five years he has got married to husband Dustin Lance Black and had a son, Robbie. 

And Black was able to give him the perspective required to move on from it. 

“I thought I was going to win an Olympic gold in Rio and that turned out completely opposite by a long shot,” he added.

“My husband said to me my story wasn't finished and my son needed to be there to watch an Olympic gold medal.

“I can say my son watched me become an Olympic champion, albeit on TV as they couldn't be here, it's such a great feeling.” 

The plan for Daley had been to retire after Tokyo, ideally with an Olympic gold medal. He has done that, but revealed afterwards that he is not ready to call it a day just yet, particularly with Paris 2024 just three years away.