One year after openly displaying a symbol in support of LGBTQ rights in Russia, Tom Daley was back again this weekend, once again earning a spot on the podium at the FINA Diving World Series in Kazan. This time, the British Olympian let his diving do the talking, earning three bronze medals including an individual.
Daley, of course, is one of the world’s most prominent out gay athletes, chronicling his everyday life with husband Dustin Lance Black and baby Robbie on his weekly vlog that generates hundreds of thousands of views. And Russia is ruled by one of the most repressive anti-LGBTQ regimes on the planet, with the country’s “gay propaganda law” being declared discriminatory and an encouragement of homophobia by the European Court of Human Rights. Its history of oppression dates back to the days of the Soviet Union.
In this context, every medal earned by Daley can be considered a victory for LGBTQ pride and visibility as well as a personal triumph. Previously, Russia had gotten in Daley’s head, as he admitted skipping out on a competition there shortly after coming out in 2014 because “I’d let other people rule by fear and it weighed really heavily on me.” But last year marked a turning point. To reassert his own strength in 2018, Daley let his activist side show by wearing a rainbow pride pin on the podium as he accepted a silver medal in the Mixed 3 Meter Synchro. As he explained in a vlog...
“It can be quite a daunting thing to come here because you never really know what might happen. But I really wanted to make sure that I make an effort to come to Russia and compete as an openly gay man because at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I should change who I am or be any different than who I am when I’m competing and doing the thing that I love.”
This year, Daley appeared to be focused entirely on his performance in the pool and it paid off in every event. After taking home three medals during the previous leg in Montreal which he dubbed “my most successful World Series ever,” Daley added three more to his trophy case with bronzes in the Men’s 10 Meter Synchronized event, Men’s Individual 10 Meter Platform, and Mixed 3 Meter Synchronized.
During the Men’s Synchro, Daley and new partner Matty Lee persevered through an up-and-down performance to finish strong by nailing a Reverse 3 1/2 Somersault Tuck that earned the pair a high score of 81.60 points and clinched a spot on the podium. As for the Mixed Synchro, a slow start found Daley and Grace Reid in fourth place after the first round but a steady progression of higher scores culminated in a 72.54 on their final dive and a third place finish.
Meanwhile, in the Individual event, Daley had to stage a furious comeback to end up medaling, earning an astonishing 102.60 on his final dive to overtake China’s Junjie Lian for the bronze. This also left Daley only 2.20 points behind Russian Silver Medalist Alexandr Bondar.
The competition in Kazan was the fourth round of the FINA Diving World Series. After a strong showing in a hostile country, Daley will be rewarded with a competition in his home pool as the final leg of the World Series takes place this weekend in London.