British Olympic diver and gay dad Tom Daley has opened up about a number of personal topics, including what it's been like being a famous gay dad, his struggles with a “mild” eating disorder before he came out, and how he’s now trying to set a great example for his young son Robbie.
Daley took part in his first Olympic games in 2008 at the age of 14, five years before he publicly came out as gay; a rarity among professional athletes.
In his newly published memoir "Coming Up For Air," Daley said he often feels overly-watched as a father.
“As gay parents and gay dads, I sometimes feel like we are held to a higher level of judgment,” Daley writes. “When you are out in public, it feels like all eyes are on you to do the right thing or parent in the right way.”
Although the offers may be innocent, Daley said strangers consistently offer him and his husband “unwanted” help with their son Robbie, including the time a stranger offered to change their baby's diaper.
“People see two dads and there is a feeling that we don’t know what we are doing or that it won’t come easily to us, in the way that it does to women,” he writes. “I guess it is well-meaning, but can be unwanted, nonetheless."
In a candid interview this week with the Guardian after his recent gold medal win at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Daley also opened up about his views on the sexualization of athletes in the sport, having been pushed as a poster boy himself.
“You have these body issues as an athlete,” Daley said. “Lots of people would look at athletes and be like: ‘What are you talking about? You’re an athlete, you’re in shape, you have nothing to worry about.’ But especially as a diver, you’re up on the diving board and you’re so naked, so visible, so it’s quite hard to be content with your body, because you always want to be better.”
In another question posed by a Guardian reader, Daley was asked if it would be fair to say he had developed an eating disorder shortly before he came out of the closet.
“I used to make myself throw up, in 2012,” Daley admitted. “I weigh myself every day. I’ve had a very strange relationship with food and my body image. I guess it is a mild form of that. Men always seem to not have eating disorders, and it’s hard to talk about it. But I would consider myself to be someone that has very much struggled with body image, and eating, and feeling guilty and shameful of the things that I eat.”
In his new book "Coming Up For Air”, Daley says he received comments about his weight from his coach, Alexei Evangulov, in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, which triggered his “mild” eating disorder and a 14-pound weight loss.
The 27-year-old also told The Telegraph that he wanted to speak out about his struggles with eating disorders because not many men do.
"I guess there is that stigma around eating disorders that problems with eating only affect women, and it's just not the case," he said. "I have felt the pressure not to talk about things because I didn't want to bother people with it. Or people might not understand. Or they would be like 'oh, don't be silly, you're fine.'"
Daley and his husband, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, were married in 2017 and have a three-year-old son together, Robbie. In his role as dad, the Olympic diver told the Guardian that he tries to set a good example for his son by meditating daily and staying focused on his goals.
“I try to do 10 minutes’ meditation every day, whether that be breathing work, guided meditation or knitting or crochet,” Daley said. “The elusive Olympic gold medal was what was keeping me going, but there’s always something to motivate me. It’s difficult some days, like it is for everyone, but I want to set a good example to Robbie of working hard, that you don’t just get given things, and that your best is OK.”
Another lesson Daley said he tries to model for his son is something his late father taught him; to have a winning attitude, no matter the results.
“My dad said: “If you go into a competition with 18 people in it and you come last, as long as you do your best, you’re 18th-best in the whole country. How cool is that?” I want to be able to pass that on to Robbie – it’s not about which medal you win, it’s about the attitude you have,” Daley said.
Buy Tom's new book on Amazon