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Congratulations Tom Daley! Why your announcement is great for sport

Gareth Thomas
Last year

When I heard the news yesterday that Tom Daley had revealed publicly that he is in a relationship with a man I wanted to put pet to paper to share my perspective. I’ve never met Tom but I feel like I’ve stood on the edge of every diving board with him during the last couple of Olympic games. I know he’s a hugely successful young man with a great life ahead of him, I just hope this announcement has a positive influence on his life going forward.

Touching on the way Tom decided to make the announcement, via a YouTube video, I thought it was incredibly personal, humbling and genuine. He was lying on his bed in a room in the middle of nowhere telling his story and hoping the public accept it and support him. I take my hat off to him. I never considered announcing it any other way than through a newspaper, that was the best medium available back then. Obviously times have changed, and other, more powerful forms of media are available. I definitely would have considered doing it this way if it was an option. 

People always look at his life and think it’s fantastic but he’s been through a lot. You could see in his eyes that all he really wants is to be Tom Daley the diver and not have a load of people questioning him for his sexuality.

People often ask me why I felt I had to ‘come out’ publicly at all as it’s not an issue for them, and the same thing will be asked of Tom. We’re in an age of social media now in which there is so much interest in celebrities and their lifestyles outside of what they do, that you have to come out if you want to walk down the street hand in hand or go to the pub and drink without people talking and spreading vicious rumours. I did it because I wanted to live my life in the way that I wanted and not be judged by people, I suspect Tom is doing it for similar reasons.

Will this announcement inspire other gay athletes to come out? I don’t think someone coming out is enough. I think it’s probably his story after coming out that will inspire others. If he goes to Rio, wins the gold medal and has a fantastic life after that it will show other athletes it’s a good thing to do. Hopefully he can re-focus now, concentrate on his sport and show that being a gay athlete doesn’t define who you are.

I think Tom now has a huge amount of responsibility on his young shoulders. He is now responsible for changing people’s lives and giving other people the confidence to come out. He is a role model who has influence over thousands, maybe even millions more people. It’s a responsibility that I’m sure he’ll take seriously once he realises just how much influence he has.

If I had any advise for Tom it would just be to stay true to who he is as Tom Daley and not be who anyone else wants him to be. The story for Tom begins today. Whether he likes it or not he now has a massive influence on a huge demographic who will look to him for support and comfort. He’s still a great diver, this is just a declaration of who he is sexually, not a declaration of who he is a s a person or a sportsman.

It’s a wonderful positive message to the world that he’s able to do it now at such a young age. In fact it’s not only testament to Tom but to society in general. I think I played rugby for three years after coming out and it just wouldn’t have been possible to do it any earlier. The rugby world was a very different place then and I wouldn’t have found the acceptance that I found when I eventually did it.

The world changes all the time. People get educated every single day. Now it’s been proven that being gay is not an issue, not just in rugby but across all sports. The world changes quickly, maybe not quickly enough but I’d rather it changes slowly than not change at all.

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