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Podcast 142: Diver Tom Daley on Winning Gold and the Power in Being the Truest Version of Yourself

September 28, 2021

Tom Daley details his journey from child prodigy to world champion, and explains what he’s learned along the way about mindset, visualization, and being your true self.

By Will Ahmed

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Tom Daley is fresh off a gold-medal winning performance in the synchronized 10-meter platform event at the Tokyo Olympics. He made his first Olympic team at the age of 14 and was the youngest competitor there, but despite being one of the most accomplished divers on the planet he talks about how he felt like a fraud until he finally captured that elusive gold this summer.

As a father, a knitter, and an LGBTQ activist, Tom has a lot to share on prioritizing your well-being and managing the pressure to perform on a world stage.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!


Champion Diver Tom Daley Podcast Quotes & Highlights:

2:57 – Finding Diving. “When I was seven, I was just lucky enough to see people diving and saw them throwing themselves off a diving board, doing somersaults and twists. I just thought, ‘That just looks really cool. I want to be able to do that.’ So I went to my local pool, had a diving session, and I loved it and went back ever since.”

6:16 – Winning the World Championships. Tom won his first diving world championship in 2009 at the age of 15. “I [did] my last dive, the best that I’d ever done it and scored one of the highest scores in the competition. And then everyone else started falling around after me. And before I knew it, I thought I’d won a bronze medal, and then I went up to silver and then, well, I won. It was obviously a massive shock to me, but it was definitely one of those defining moments in my career.”

7:32 – The Love of a Parent. Tom remembers how his dad posed as a media member and snuck into the press conference after the 2009 world championship. “He put his hand up and said, ‘Tom, I have a question for you. Can you come and give me a cuddle?’ I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god dad, what are you doing?’ This is the most embarrassing thing in my whole life.’ So obviously I had to go and give him a hug. So I gave him a hug and he also told me how proud he was.” Tom’s dad passed away in 2011 from cancer. “It was always our dream together to win an Olympic gold medal, so I’d like to think he’d be very proud of everything I’ve achieved.”

10:01 – Coming Out. “I remember at the time being so completely terrified,” Tom says, adding that his former management team advised him against coming out. “I got to the point where I [couldn’t] live hiding anymore. I am who I am and if people don’t like it, they don’t like it. I can’t spend the rest of my life in fear. So I just wanted to take control of the situation.”

14:01 – Being Your True Self. “After coming out, I had this weight lifted off of me. I could be who I am without really worrying.”

15:02 – Visualization. Visualization has been so crucial in everything that I’ve done,” Tom says. “I couldn’t go into the diving pool very often [last year] because of COVID. So I had to visualize all of my dives as many times as I could and visualize them only ever going perfectly well, the best dives that you could possibly do. So I would visualize them over and over and over again.”

17:48 – WHOOP. “I use WHOOP a lot because my heart rate variability, my heart rate, my sleep, all of those things [are used] in order for me to [guide my] training. [I use it to] know when I am over pushing it, when I am under pushing it, when I can do more, and when I should be doing less.”

21:29 – Mindfulness and Meditation. “I see meditation and mindfulness as if you’re going to the bank. You go there to get all of the credit that you need for the day and the stuff that you’re going to need to be able to deal with the day ahead.”

25:18 – Prepared to Peak. Tom details how he got ready for the Olympic final and how he had a WHOOP recovery of 97% the morning of the competition.

28:57 – Burning Calories. “I burn way more calories diving than I ever thought I would,” Tom says of his WHOOP data. “It makes sense because I’m going up so many flights of stairs all the time. To get to 10 meters, I think there’s 50 to 60 steps to get up … You’re composing yourself and then you’re doing like a really big max effort jumping skill. Your heart rate is going up and down, up and down. When you’re in the pool for an hour and a half, it burns some calories.”

30:03 – Fear. Tom says one of the best pieces of advice he’s received came from diving legend Greg Louganis. “Fear is just excitement without breathing. … Take the time for an extra breath to really ground yourself.”

39:53 – Winning Gold. “I thought it was going to be a moment that I was going to be able to sing the national anthem at the top of my lungs and, butI just couldn’t speak, I was crying. I was a complete mess.”

42:39 – Finding Peace. After that Olympic gold medal, it was the first time I woke up with a sense of peace. ‘I’ve done it.’ Everything that I’ve ever dreamed of achieving in my sport, I have now achieved. I almost beforehand felt a bit like a fraud. I’m this successful athlete, I’d won Worlds and Europeans and Commonwealths and World Cups, but never the Olympic gold medal.”

44:42 – Making Sacrifices for Your Sport. “It’s been my life for as long as I can remember. It’s not a job that you can just leave at the office. It’s a lifestyle and you have to be ready to give up everything at all costs to achieve those goals.”

50:21 – Knitting. Tom garnered plenty of social media attention by knitting in the stands during the Olympics. He says he picked up the habit as a mindfulness and recovery technique. “Knitting was a great way to just stop me from overthinking.”

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.