As sports comeback announcements go, the gold standard for all athletes is Michael Jordan’s “I’m back.” Those two words generated headlines throughout the world and still inspire chills today, even though Jordan’s decision to send them by fax was the most 1995 thing possible outside of declaring his return to basketball via Macarena.
Daley’s is one I’ll remember.
In his announcement, the gay diver also proclaimed that while he couldn’t be sure where his return to the pool would take him, his goal is to compete in the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.
It also highlighted one of the major differences between the two world class athletes. Always looking for ways to destroy his competition and prove his superiority, Jordan’s “I’m back” was meant to show the basketball world that he could still dominate the planet’s news cycle with just six letters.
Daley’s video, on the other hand, was about sharing his humanity and vulnerability with his fans, as well as underscoring the important role his growing family played in his athletic career path.
As he explained, Daley cemented his decision to come back when his son Phoenix was born in April. Daley had traveled with his family to Colorado Springs for Phoenix’s birth and discovered that it was a town that had designated itself “Olympic City USA” and was the home of the US Olympic Training Center.
Considering how big a role the Games had played in Daley’s life, this struck a chord.
While waiting for Phoenix to be born, Daley visited the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum with husband Dustin Lance Black and son Robbie. Their tour culminated with a video featuring some of the most inspirational moments in Olympic history.
As someone who experienced one of those moment himself when he won a gold medal at the Tokyo Games, Daley was moved.
“I sat there with Robbie and I remember the video started and I just…I wept,” he said. “I couldn’t control myself. It was like I hadn’t grieved diving, that I hadn’t been doing it anymore and I, in theory, had retired.”
At that point, a switch flipped. While Daley had never made an official retirement announcement, his dedication to his growing family and his Made With Love knitting line over the past couple of years made it seem that his life priorities had changed.
“I don’t think I was ready to be done. And I don’t feel like I was ready to hang up my trunks and move on with that part of my life.”
It was a little less pithy than “I’m back.” But in the diving world, it was just as seismic.
Daley was coming back to see if he could still reach the top of his sport. This time, it wasn’t just for himself.
He noted that when the video was over, Robbie had something to say.
“Papa, I want to see you dive at the Olympics,” Daley related from his son.
“That has kind of lit a new flame and fire inside of me to want to see where this goes,” he said.
While many of Daley’s videos have become slick production numbers, this one was mostly him just speaking directly into the camera—less as a seasoned TV personality and more as his vulnerable real self.
As such, the introspective nature echoed the tone of his 2013 coming-out announcement and made him seem especially relatable and human, even as he talked about trying to qualify for the next Olympic Games.
Throughout the vlog, Daley repeated that he was uncertain how his comeback was going to go, and his nervousness was evident.
Nonetheless, he emphasized that he was doing it in part “to set an example to Robbie and Phoenix about working hard at something that you love and doing something that you love to do.”
The results of his comeback, like all others in sports, could be contrasted with the wild success of Jordan’s second time around with the Chicago Bulls.
But when it comes to how much this comeback means to his family, Daley will already be competing in peak form as a father and husband.