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Tom Daley leaves behind teenage years

By Ryan Hooper

Olympic diving medallist and television personality Tom Daley turns 20 today, leaving behind teenage years marked with jubilation and tragedy. Here, the Press Association looks at the life and times of London 2012's Plymothian pin-up:

Few people can claim to wear more on the beach than for their day job.

But since a tender age, Thomas Robert Daley's bronzed torso and budgie smuggler trunks have adorned television screens and bedroom walls across the globe as he stormed his way to sporting success and international repute.

Tom Daley's interest in diving began at the age of eight, and by 13 he had become the youngest-ever European champion when he claimed gold in the men's 10m platform in Eindhoven in 2008.

Later that year emerged as the youngest-ever male Olympian from Great Britain when he competed in the Beijing Games aged just 14. At 15 he then became Great Britain's youngest-ever world champion in Rome in 2009.

His successes at the pool - though irked by those who mistakenly described the athlete as a "swimmer" - won him an international fan base. A management company swiftly sought to hone Daley's on-screen personality, utilising his good looks and unrelenting, charming demeanour to reel in the trappings of fame and notoriety.

But his celebrity status also earned Daley - still barely old enough to buy a Lottery ticket - a barrage of spite.

In April 2009, years before his name would be known in households across the country, Daley said he suffered cruel taunts from peers at Eggbuckland Community College, prompting his parents to scoop him out of school and send the promising 15-year-old to Plymouth College.

There, Daley would combine studying for GCSEs and later A-Levels with a gruelling sporting programme - though he would forever be followed by gaggles of excitable schoolgirls eager to coax him from the shadows for a photograph as he ghosted through the corridors, keen not to be regarded as anything other than just another, regular student.

Personal tragedy was to follow when his father Robert died from a brain tumour on 27 May 2011, aged 40.

Mr Daley, who had accompanied his son to tournaments and become a familiar figure at the poolside, had vowed to survive his illness long enough to watch his son compete in the 2012 Olympics.

Although he did not live to see this, he was present when his son won a gold medal in the World Series in Sheffield a month before his death.

Disputes were to follow as Daley geared himself for the 2012 Games, falling out with diving partner Blake Aldridge at the Beijing Games when the younger member of the team took a telephone call from his mother between dives.

He also had to contend with public criticism when trainers said Daley should cut down his media commitments or face missing an Olympic medal.

And his preparations were disrupted further when Daley received a hateful message from a 17-year-old boy on Twitter, who said the diver had let his father down with a poor performance.

Daley, a native of the digital age and a prolific tweeter, offered a very public response, replying: "After giving it my all... you get idiots sending me this..."

The abusive teen, who was living in sheltered housing in Weymouth at the time, was given a police warning while Daley went on to claim bronze in the 10m men's platform.

It prompted wild celebrations in Daley's home city, where thousands had crammed underneath a large screen on the plaza to cheer Daley on - returning to the streets as a homecoming parade passed through Plymouth.

Post-Games, Daley was to reveal how he hankered for a media career - and it arrived in the form of ITV reality show Splash! in which celebrity contestants tried to emulate the Olympian, a co-host and performer each episode.

The show was panned by the critics, yet the prime-time audiences soared to in excess of 5 million, and Splash! returned this year for a second series.

Throughout the latter stages of his teenage years, journalists were regularly discouraged from asking Daley about his sexuality.

And so the news in December last year that the athlete was in a relationship with a man - director and producer Dustin Lance Black - was made public by Daley himself on Twitter and YouTube.

The 19-year-old said in his five-and-a-half-minute address that he wished to put an end to "rumours and speculation" regarding his private life by announcing he is dating a then-unnamed man and "could not be happier."

He said: "Come spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone and they made me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great - and that someone is a guy.

"It did take me by surprise a little bit. It was always in the back of my mind that something like that could happen, but it wasn't until spring this year that something just clicked, it felt right... my whole world just changed there and then."

His coming out was cheered by gay rights and sports stars, who commended the athlete for speaking proudly of his sexuality.

Daley has since uprooted his life to London leaving his family, friends and long-time coach Andy Banks behind in Plymouth.

Despite the burgeoning media career - which has included the ITV2 travelogue Tom Daley Goes Global - the athlete has set his sights on competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

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