Tom Daley: From being bullied at school to diving for Olympic gold

From diving wunderkind to Olympic champion and family man - ITV News Correspondent Sally Biddulph reports on Daley's journey

Despite being only 27 years old, Tom Daley refers to himself as the "grandad of diving", a sign of how much he has done and witnessed in his life on the board.

Tokyo is Daley's fourth Olympics, having first competed at Beijing back in 2008, aged just 14, quickly becoming Team GB's poster boy.

It has taken four Games for Daley to finally achieve his dream of winning gold, to add to two bronze medals from London and Rio de Janeiro.

A lot has happened to Daley both in and out of the pool over the past 27 years.

Daley diving at Beijing 2008. Credit: PA

Daley first came to the nation's attention by winning the individual and synchronised titles at the British Championships in 2008 as a 13-year-old.

Success at the pool was set to a backdrop of being bullied at school for his triumphs and coping with his father, Robert, having cancer of the brain, an illness that took his life aged 40.

Beijing was not the dream script everyone had planned for the wonderkid, finishing last in the synchronised event with Blake Aldridge and seventh in the solo diving.

Daley at the Beijing 2008 closing ceremony. Credit: PA

On his return to hometown Plymouth after the Games the bullying got so bad that Daley was forced to move schools.

Robert died in 2011 when Daley was 17 years old. "I was holding his hand as he stopped breathing," Daley told Desert Island Discs.

“It wasn’t until he stopped breathing and he was dead that I finally acknowledged that he wasn’t invincible, that he wasn’t going to be there to teach me to drive, to fill up my first pint, to be able to watch me win an Olympic medal, to see me get married, to see me have a kid.

“All those things. Because 40 years old is such a young age to die."

Daley with father Robert. Credit: PA

Despite his personal loss, Daley went on to win bronze in the the individual event on the 10m board at London 2012.

Daley said he felt like did not want to dive again after coming third in London but went onto launch ITV reality show Splash, a sign of his star status.

In 2013 Daley announced via a YouTube post that he was in a relationship with Dustin Lance Black, a film writer and director, 20 years older than the diver. They would go on to marry in 2017.

Daley said in his video post: “My life changed massively when I met someone and it made me feel so happy, so safe. Well, that someone is a guy.”

Daley and husband Dustin Lance Black. Credit: PA

The next Games in Rio De Janeiro in 2016 would see Daley, alongside Daniel Goodfellow, collect his second Olympic bronze, this time in the 10m synchronised diving, although he failed to reach the final of the individual event.

“At the Olympics your dreams can get crushed in an instant,” Daley said after his poor performance. “It doesn’t get any lower than this.”

Along with husband Black, the pair announced birth of their first child, Robert Ray, through a surrogate in 2018 and named him after Daley's father.

"Firstly I'm a father and secondly I'm an athlete so that changed perspective going into the Games does change how I think about it because if I do well or if I do terribly I'm going to go back to my family and they're going to love me for who I am," Daley told Sky Sports News.

"Just having that and knowing that takes so much pressure off me and I can just go there and enjoy it and dive better because I'm not going to have that pressure on."

Matty Lee discusses meeting Daley as a child

Daley teamed up with Yorkshireman Matty Lee, who had idolised the young diver, in October 2018 and went on to win bronze at the World Aquatics Championship the following year.

As well as preparing for Tokyo, Daley has had a very busy pandemic by entertaining his 885,000 YouTube subscribers and showing off his crocheting skills.

These activities did not distract Daley from his profession as he and Lee won gold in Tokyo thanks to an impressive performance on the 10m board in the synchronised event.

“In terms of out athletes, there are more openly out athletes at these Olympic Games than any Olympic Games previously," Daley said.

"I came out in 2013 and when I was younger I always felt like the one that was alone and different and didn’t fit.

"There was something about me that was never going to be as good as what society wanted me to be.

"I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.”