Happy dad Daley delighted with life as he hones in on Tokyo 2020

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For Tom Daley, diving had been his life for as long as he can remember, but now he has more important things to worry about.

Being a dad has become his priority following the arrival of his first son Robbie last year and it is having a positive impact in the pool.

Results have been impressive in 2019 and Daley has put it down to dealing with the chores of fatherhood.

He spent his school days counting down the minutes until he could get back on the board, at 10 years old he chose to pursue it seriously over his other love judo and by the age of 14 he was competing in the Olympic Games.

After being thrust into the nation’s consciousness at Beijing in 2008, Daley continued to dedicate himself to the sport throughout his teenage years and into his twenties, going on to further represent Team GB at London 2012 and in Rio four years later.

If he qualifies for Tokyo 2020 – and he could do so at next month’s World Championships in South Korea – it will be his fourth Olympics and he will only be 26. Not many other athletes will be able to boast that.

Tom Daley Photocall – London Aquatics Centre
Tom Daley is preparing to compete at his fourth Olympic Games (Ian West/PA)

While his friends were partying until the early hours, Daley was in bed ahead of an early-morning training session.

If he had a bad day’s practise at the pool it would consume him and let it ruin his evening, as he pondered what went wrong and what he had to do the next day to put it right.

But for the last year, Daley’s mind at night has finally been clear of the intricacies of the flying forward one-and-a-half somersaults into a pike.

Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black, who married in 2017, welcomed their son Robbie into the world last year and the diver is besotted.

Anyone with children can testify to just how tough the first few years can be, but it is having a positive effect on Daley’s diving.

He returned from paternity leave rejuvenated with the sport and says that because it is no longer number one in his life, he has become better.

Daley is a two-time Olympic bronze medallist
Daley is a two-time Olympic bronze medallist (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

“It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible. It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things.

“He is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything.

“It has been a roller coaster, it’s tough, but it is the most amazing feeling to come home from training and see him smiling. It is the best.

“If you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy.

“It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool.

“I can leave it there because you don’t have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one.”

As a result, performances have spiked and he has enjoyed a productive World Series, winning 12 medals across five events.

Daley is balancing family life with his diving career
Daley is balancing family life with his diving career (Ian West/PA)

Next up is the World Championships in South Korea, where, barring a disaster, Daley is likely to earn qualification for a fourth Games, Tokyo 2020.

The first of those in Beijing, where Daley was a baby-faced teenager who became a household name overnight, must seem a long time ago.

Although an Olympic gold medal still evades the 25-year-old, he has to be credited with single-handedly raising the profile of diving in this country.

But Daley is determined to make his legacy much more than witnessing celebrities throw themselves off three-metre diving boards.

He has set up the Tom Daley Diving Academy, which has 1,000 participants across the country, with two standout graduates in the shape of Camilla De Pourbaix and Hannah Campbell, who Daley has big hopes for.

“I am so proud to be able to make diving a little bit more accessible, to get people involved and learning new skills,” he said.

“That is what the academy is all about, getting people involved. I would be so proud if anyone came out of the academy an in to an Olympic team.

“I would love to help the next generation come through. That would blow my mind if it was possible because of an academy that I started.”

Already thinking about life after diving might make you think that Daley is ready to hang up his trunks (which are made from recyclable plastic by the way, another thing he is passionate about).

But while his inner bicep is decorated with a tattoo and he wears jewellery of the Olympic rings, there is one piece of memorabilia from the Games he is still missing and is desperate to get his hands on.

Daley says he still has a lot to achieve
Daley says he still has a lot to achieve (Ian West/PA)

“It is the most important thing, we live, eat and breathe the Olympics.

“Of course, every one dreams of an Olympic gold medal but I am staying focused on what I need to do.”

So, when might he call it a day?

Daley says he is refreshed after taking a break
Daley says he is refreshed after taking a break (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“If you asked me that last year, I would have said, ‘Not very long’.

“But after taking a break, our son was born, being able to have that time away from the sport, away from diving, resting my body, resting my mind, has really given me a new lease of life to push towards Tokyo 2020.”

For now at least, Daley it is very much less Bushtucker Trial, more reverse two-and-a-half somersaults into a tuck.

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