The bronze was Daley’s second Olympic medal in an individual event (along with the 2012 Men’s Platform bronze) and completed his comeback from a shocking elimination in the semifinals of Rio 2016.
After splashing his first attempt in the preliminaries and making viewers simultaneously think, “Oh no, here we go again,” Daley locked it in and advanced back up the leaderboard with a series of well-executed dives.
And this time, he didn’t let the moment get to him in the semis, finishing strong with a fourth place showing heading into the final.
Winning a gold medal with Matty Lee in the Men’s Synchro event helped ease the pressure, and Daley was able to perform at his highest level early on in the Individual final.
Although China’s Cao Yuan and Yang Jian turned in sterling performances to eventually pull away for gold and silver, Daley kept his focus throughout his six dives and landed on the medal podium with a score of 548.25.
Afterwards, he opened up to the media about how his family helped him rebound from the disappointment of Rio to turn in his best Olympic performance yet in Tokyo:
“My husband said to me after Rio that, obviously I was extremely disappointed. And he said to me that maybe you weren’t meant to win gold this time because your son was meant to watch you win an Olympic gold medal. And the fact that I did that and then also another Individual medal, which makes it four...my husband and son, I’ve got to thank for so much of this along with my coaches and support team.”
Hopefully in his spare time, Daley can knit something to hold together the thousands of hearts that just spontaneously melted.
In addition to reflecting on his career-defining personal achievements, Daley addressed the homophobic hatespeech from Russian state TV, which had attacked him and slandered LGBTQ Olympians with terms like “abomination” and “perversion...”
“History shows that everything that society is has been dictated from the straight white male experience. If we could come together and use different points of view, the world would be a better place.
“There are lots of people who grow up around the world in less fortunate situations. I just hope that seeing out sportspeople will help people to feel like they are less alone, like they are valued, like they can achieve something. When I was growing up, I always knew I was different. I always heard people saying bad things. You never feel as if you can say anything. You swallow yourself up and you feel like you’re never going to be anyone.
“I didn’t realize the impact it would have on people around the world to live as myself. I feel extremely proud of that.”
Ultimately, that is going to be Daley’s defining legacy from the Tokyo Olympic Games. And that, even more than his gold and bronze medals, is what makes him an Olympic champion.