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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Tom Daley dives into his queer truth for Coming Up For Air memoir

Nearly a year after winning the Olympic gold medal, Tom Daley has entered the literary world — and for the first time, he is ready to publicly acknowledge the vulnerabilities underlying his record-breaking sportsmanship.

A 28-year-old British diver reveals his emotions in a new book, Taking to the Air: What I’ve Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood. Released in the US last month, the book eschews the traditional memoir format. Instead, it’s a collection of 11 individual essays that delve into the triumphs and tribulations he’s endured since taking the world’s spotlight. Each essay has a unique title – “Persistence”, “Acceptance” and “Confidence” among others – which refers to the personal qualities he says he has developed over the years of his athletic career.

“I think it’s important, if you’re a visible queer person, to try to help other people and not just sit with your privilege,” Daly told HuffPost. “Once you start beating yourself up for mistakes, you start worrying about making them. You stop taking risks and grow as a person.”

Fans will be thrilled to know that “Coming Up for Air” details Daley’s Olympic gold medal in the men’s 10m platform synchronized dive at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

But he also talks about grief, body image, family, and his early fears when it came to coming out as gay. He shares anecdotes from his marriage to Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, referred to simply as “Lance” in the text. The two men are fathers to a three-year-old son, Robbie.

“I think it’s important, if you’re a visible queer person, to try to help other people and not just sit with your privilege,” Daly said.

Laurel Golio for HuffPost

HuffPost reached out to Daley while he was in New York for his “Coming Up for Air” book tour last month. Here’s what he had to say about the book, being an advocate for LGBTQ rights and, of course, his love of knitting.

Unlike most memoirs, the stories in Coming Up for Air are not told in chronological order. Why did you choose this approach?

Being an Olympian is one thing, but how can I apply what I have learned as an athlete to my daily life? Because there are many parallels. It’s very similar to the goals you might have at school, the stresses you might have at work – teamwork and team effort. So I wanted to try to make it as digestible as possible so that there is something that [readers] may be related.

You won a gold medal at the Tokyo Summer Olympics last year. What was that moment like?

It was incredibly overwhelming because I worked for 20 years to achieve this. To be honest, it still seems very surreal that this even happened. That’s the only thing that kept me going for so long, the thought of winning an Olympic gold medal. As I explain in the book, the next day I woke up for the first time with a sense of real peace. It was a real feeling, “You know what? We did it”.

Of his decision to come out as gay, in a 2013 YouTube video, Daly said: "It freed me up so much and had such a positive impact on my performance that I wish I had done it sooner."

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Of his decision to come out as gay in a YouTube video in 2013, Daly said, “It was so liberating and had such a positive effect on my coming out that I wish I had done it sooner.”

Laurel Golio for HuffPost

You touch on the events that led to your decision to perform in the 2013 YouTube video. If you had to do it again, would you change anything in the process?

It freed me up so much and had such a positive impact on my performance that I wish I had done it sooner. Then I was so scared. I was so afraid of losing sponsors. My father had died a couple of years before and I wanted to still be able to support my family. When people tell you that you may lose sponsors, it will certainly scare you and make you stay in the shadows longer than you would like.

You mention in the book that you and Lance had similar professional trajectories — he won an Oscar for Milk in 2008, you won a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics — when you started dating. How would you describe your relationship now?

I would definitely say that we are both dreamers. We dare to dream and we dare to dream big. If I say, “I really want to do this,” he might say, “Why stop there? Dream big. Get bigger. Why not?” If we both want to do something, we’re like, “You know what? We’re going to work hard and get it.” We both know what it takes to be the best at what we do. I know that we are very lucky, but we love to work hard and just do our best.

As a queer, have you ever wished your personal milestones – getting married, having a baby – weren’t scrutinized as if they were political statements?

I feel that all minorities are in some way… everything we do is seen as political in some way. In the end, all I know is that I love Lance and want to marry him, and we really wanted to have a family. And now we have a son whom we love very much. It may seem political to some, but it all comes from love.

[Marriage and fatherhood have] changed the way I prioritize. Just being able to go to the Olympics and knowing that no matter what happens, my family will love and support me takes a lot of pressure off and allows me to really enjoy it. And when I like what I do, I get the best results.

If Daly Gets His Way, A Fashion Week Show Solely Dedicated To His Knitwear Could Be In His Future.
If Daly gets his way, a Fashion Week show solely dedicated to his knitwear could be in his future.

Laurel Golio for HuffPost

What do you say to young LGBTQ people who tell you they look up to you as a role model?

It’s pretty overwhelming and I never know what to say. When I got out, I never thought about it. It was more like, “I just can’t take it anymore. I just need to say what I think and what I feel.” To think that people could watch my video and then feel safe and be able to talk to their parents or friends… I never thought it would ever have such an impact.

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about your knitting and your recent foray into knitwear design with your Made With Love brand. Were you surprised by the attention she got?

My trainer said that I need to find somewhere where I can sit down, rest and recover, because I am always on the go. Then Lance said, “People on sets are knitting sweaters. Why don’t you let him go?”

My personality just dived right in. I didn’t want to do it half way. I thought, “I’m going to do this and really learn how to do it.” I did not know that someone would be interested in my knitting. But now that I can pass on my passion for knitting to other people through Made With Love…if someone had told me five years ago that I would be an Olympic champion and design knitwear…it seems so surreal.

What are your dreams now and what do you hope to achieve in, say, the next 5-10 years?

I would like to be the main broadcaster of the olympic games for World Nation News or nbc, if i am in the usa i would like to do a knitwear show at fashion week. I would also like to expand our family.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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