Out British diver Tom Daley stepped on the podium in Tokyo in July to receive the first of his two Olympic medals – a gold medal for men’s synchronized 10 meter platform diving. He had made history as the first Brit to ever win in the discipline. What no one knew at the time was that, just months before the Olympics, the 27-year-old had been recovering from Covid after he was rushed to the hospital in January.

Not only did the diver have to deal with the fear associated with contracting the virus, but it was also attacking his most important asset – his lungs.

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“My lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them. Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body. I honestly felt like I might die,” Daley told The Times.

 

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The Plymouth-born athlete has never before talked about his battle with Covid. In an interview with The Times, prior to the release of his book Coming Up For Air: What I Learned From Sport, the diver described his terrifying ordeal during the course of the illness 

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill. I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified,” he  said in the interview with The Times.

Kept It A Secret to Keep Rivals On Their Toes

 

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Daley started showing symptoms in January and rushed to get a PCR test taken as his condition worsened. Due to the diver’s history with pneumonia, medical staff hospitalized him and took x-rays of his chest, which revealed blotches on his lungs. 

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After being given oxygen and monitored for ten hours, Daley was discharged and started recovering. Although initially feeling better, the 27-year-old explained how his condition later declined. 

“My head felt like I had a vice tightening around it and my oxygen levels were dropping. I would consider myself to be quite a healthy person, but Covid doesn’t discriminate at all,” he told The Times.

The interview with The Times is the first occasion where Daley has opened up about contracting Covid. Daley said the decision to keep the diagnosis a secret to the public was a conscious, strategic choice prior to the Olympics.

 

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“You can’t let your competitors think that they’ve got one up on you. I wanted them to think that I was training as hard as them,” the athlete elaborated to The Times.

Did Not Train For Three Months After Contracting COVID

“I spent the first three months of this year not diving, only using the power of visualisation – just imagining myself doing the dives day in, day out.”

Daley won the first Olympic gold medal of his career at the Tokyo Olympic Games in the men’s synchronised 10m platform. Days later he also won the bronze medal in the men’s individual 10m platform diving.

 

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Following his win, at a press conference, Daley said, “I feel incredibly proud to say I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion.”

Daley married Oscar-winning filmmaker Dustin Lance Black in 2017 and the couple adopted their first child in 2018.

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