One of Britain’s most popular sportsmen announced in a YouTube video on Monday that he was in a relationship with another man.
Tom Daley, 19, a world diving champion, said his life had been turned upside down by a romance that began in the spring. The Olympic medalist posted the video on Twitter, where he has almost 2.5 million followers. “Got something I need to say... not been an easy decision to make, hope you can support me!” he wrote.
The diver, now one of professional sport’s few openly gay athletes, became a star in Britain at the age of 13 when he won the men’s national diving championships. He has grown up in the public eye but tried to keep his private life separate. The teenage athlete occasionally denied suggestions that he was gay.
"I've never really had a serious relationship to talk about," he said, in the video published Monday. "Now I kind of feel ready to talk about my relationships. Come spring this year, my life changed massively when I met someone and it made me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great. And that someone is a guy.
“It was always in the back of my head that something like that could happen, but it wasn't until spring this year that something just clicked," he said. "It felt right. My whole world just changed, right there and then.”
Daley, who presents TV shows and attends book signings in nothing but his trademark Speedos, has become a pin-up for an entire generation, appearing on the cover of dozens of teen mags, sports monthlies and gay magazines.
“Of course I still fancy girls,” he said. “But I mean, right now I'm dating a guy and I couldn't be happier. It makes me feel safe and just really does feel right."
Musician Boy George and actor Russell Brand were among thousands who welcomed the news on Twitter. “Well done sunshine, dive into love,” Brand wrote.
The Olympic bronze medalist said the reaction to his boyfriend from his family had not been universally positive. "Lots of them didn't believe it," he said, of the “mixed opinions”. "Lots of them wanted me to keep it quiet, some said 'Why don't you do a statement? Why don't you do a magazine cover? Why don't you do a TV interview?' I didn't want to get my words twisted. I wanted to put an end to all the rumors and speculation.”
Daley’s father, who quit his job in order to take Tom to competitions and training sessions, died of cancer at the age of 40 in 2011, a year before his son competed at the 2012 Olympics in London. Tom said: "People will think 'What would your dad have said?' He always said to me 'As long as you're happy, I'm happy,' and right now I couldn't be happier."
Daley, who appears on the British version of the celebrity-diving show Splash!, has so many publicity and television commitments that some in the sport have questioned his desire to succeed in the pool.
Alexei Evangulov, the head of British diving, compared him to tennis player/model Anna Kournikova last year. “She, too, looked pretty and made a promising start," he said. "But the media exposure meant she never got to be the best."
Daley proved his critics wrong by winning a medal in London. He said Monday that he remains committed to the sport. "I'm still Tom. I still want to win an Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 for Great Britain. I'm still as motivated as ever to do that,” he said.