The diving star recognized the pressures that LGBTQ athletes face.
Tom Daley wants LGBTQ athletes who are in the closet to come out to “inspire” young people. The Olympic diver made the remarks in an interview with Yahoo UK.
Daley recognized the challenges in coming out, saying: “I’m sure that in the world of sport there are people that are closeted and feel they can’t come out and feel trapped and I feel really bad for them because it’s such a weight on your shoulders to be living like that.
“Everyone is ready at different times, and there is no right or wrong way to do it, it’s just a matter of being able to do it when you’re ready.”
Related | Tom Daley Reveals Being Gay Made Him Feel ‘Inferior’
But talking about how young people might feel, he continued: “But knowing that people in sport, especially a high profile sport, if you were to come out and share your personal story it would help so many young children that look up to you – whether it be a football player or a rugby player — and think, ‘Oh wow! Who I am isn’t going to stop me from being able to achieve my dreams in sport.’
“If anything, being slightly different and being that person can help you be stronger and deal with a lot of different pressures when it comes to competition.”
Discoursing on his personal experience, he added: “I think for anyone, whether they’re in a sport or not, it is a daunting time to think about coming out and telling people about yourself and who you are.
“I built it up to be one of the craziest and scariest things, and I thought the world is going to end, it’s this terrible event. It didn’t, and I was like, ‘Oh ok that wasn’t so bad.’
“I know that isn’t the same for everyone, I’m very lucky to have had that experience, but I think there’s something really powerful about sharing your personal stories.
Related | Gus Kenworthy Calls Out Closeted Athletes
“Just being able to share personal stories can help change people’s hearts, and when you change people’s hearts, you change their minds and the way they think about things.”
The diver also addressed the rise of homophobic hate crimes, stating: “It’s shocking to see in this day and age that things like that can happen.
“I think people should be lifting people and celebrating differences. When people are attacking people for being different, it just baffles me.”
Daley’s commentaries come weeks after Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy gave similar statements. In an interview with Ask Men, Kenworthy said: “athletes staying in the closet for their career and coming out post-retirement are cowardly.”
He then replied: “I understand it, I know why they would have to do that, but I think that it’s cowardly. It just really shows that they’re ashamed of themselves, and they’re afraid. I just don’t think that they should let those fears consume them.”