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Fatherhood has helped Tom Daley rediscover his love of diving and the Team GB superstar believes he’s in the best shape of his life ahead of a fourth shot at Olympic glory, writes Charlie Bennett.
Daley has five European, four Commonwealth and three World Championship golds but just two bronzes at the Olympics, one each from London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The 27-year-old admits he’s struggled to perform under the intense Olympic pressure but since becoming a dad to son Robbie, who turns three later this month, his outlook on life – and diving – has changed.
And that shift in perspective could make all the difference as he bids to add the one medal missing from his bulging trophy cabinet.
“I used to define myself by diving but to be honest I am first and foremost a father and a husband. Diving is extremely important to me but I also have other things in my life, namely my son,” said Daley, whose Team GB exploits in Tokyo will be broadcast live on Eurosport and discovery+.
“It has made me think about going into these competitions and the way I put pressure on myself.
“I want to show that you can work really hard for something and enjoy it at the same time, because for a while in my diving career I was working so hard and putting so much pressure on myself, it was hard to enjoy it because it can be difficult.
“So, learning to overcome that and see it from a different point of view makes me excited to get out there and compete.
“The thought that my son is going to be able to watch me compete at an Olympic Games, even if it is on TV, is exciting, overwhelming and surreal to me.”
If Daley’s form is anything to go by, then he will take some stopping in Tokyo.
He and synchro partner Dan Goodfellow won the 10-metre platform event at both the Olympic test event and European Championships last month, while Daley also brought home the individual 10-metre title from Japan.
Though Daley hopes to continue to a fifth Games in Paris in three years’ time, when he will be 30, this summer may represent his best chance of winning that elusive medal.
“Any athlete would be lying if they said they didn’t want to be win an Olympic gold because it is every athlete’s dream,” he said.
“That has eluded me so far but at the end of the day I have to get to the start line in one piece and be there ready to compete at my best on that day with no regrets, doing everything I possibly could have so I know that I could not have done anymore.”
These Games will be very different to any previous Olympics and there is plenty of pressure on organisers to ensure they go ahead safely, with a recent poll finding more than 80 per cent of the Japanese public would prefer the Games to be postponed again or cancelled all together.
Tokyo is in a state of emergency owing to spiralling Covid-19 cases but Daley is convinced the Games can go ahead safely, after experiencing the planned safety measures at the test event last month.
“It blew me away to be honest because before we went away, I didn’t know how it was going to work,” he added.
“But it was very reassuring to see it being so heavily enforced. There was someone on every single corner enforcing masks, enforcing distance, enforcing all of these things.
“So, yes I was very reassured that they know what to do to keep it safe.”
Watch every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+