Just months before Tom Daley won his first Olympic gold medal, he was hospitalised with COVID-19.
The 27-year-old’s Tokyo haul was a highlight of this year’s games, coming 13 years after he first stepped onto the diving platform in Beijing 2008. He emerged with a gold medal in the men’s synchronised 10m platform, alongside fellow diver Matty Lee, and bronze in the men’s 10m platform, beaten by China’s Cao Yuan and Yang Jian.
Speaking with The Times, Daley discussed the lead-up to the games and the aftermath; more specifically, how he became a meme for his poolside knitting. On using his profile for LGBTQ+ activism, he also said, ‘Life’s too short to discriminate. The pandemic, being married, having a kid… I don’t care what other people think. I just want to fight for what I believe in.’
During the interview, Daley revealed he’d been hospitalised with coronavirus seven months before the Olympics.
He felt ill in January, suffering headaches and dizziness he believed to be stemming from a mild concussion from training. However, a fever and aches soon followed, leaving the athlete feeling faint and struggling to walk down stairs.
Lateral flow tests proved negative, so he went for a PCR test, which came up positive. Shortly after, given concerns over his past experience with pneumonia, Daley was hospitalised. X-rays showed blotches in his lungs, and he stayed in hospital for 10 hours before heading home.
‘You can’t let your competitors think that they’ve got one up on you. I wanted them to think that I was training as hard as them. I spent the first three months of this year not diving, only using the power of visualisation – just imagining myself doing the dives day in, day out,’ he said, as he’d never discussed it prior to the games.
Daley may be a gold medal winner, but he suspects there’s been a 5% hit to his fitness. ‘I would consider myself to be quite a healthy person, but COVID doesn’t discriminate at all,’ he added.
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