Tom Daley: How meditation made me a better diver

British dive superstar Tom Daley is having the season of a lifetime, and says 10 mins meditation every day is key as he sets sights on world champs and Tokyo 2020. 

By Ken Browne

Tom Daley has found the perfect balance.

He's in world-beating form and meditation and mindfulness are playing a massive part.

"I've started to believe I can be the best in the world again," the 24-year-old told the BBC.

And that was before he topped the 10m synchro podium at the 2019 Diving World Series in London with dive partner Matty Lee.

"I'm speechless. In the junior world I established myself as quite a successful athlete but this is my first senior international gold medal." - Tom Daley

The two-time Olympic bronze medallist then added a third-place finish in the men's 10m platform before winning the mixed 3m springboard synchro event with Grace Reid.

That victory made it 12 podium finishes in five World Series events this season.

So how does meditation help and how did he get into it?

Tom Daley's husband

It was Daley's husband Lance Black who convinced him to try it.

"When Lance first suggested mindfulness and meditation back in 2016, I was a bit dismissive but it's completely changed my perspective," the British diver said before the London event.

"Just taking 10 seconds to focus on my breathing in the morning, at night or even when I'm up on the board about to compete, really helps me forget any worries about what might have happened or what could happen and just live in the present."

Daley delivers

Meditation has provided the focus for the British dive star to fulfill his early promise.

And he promised a lot.

Thomas Robert Daley, born in 1994, began diving at 7 and was an Olympian at just fourteen years and three months at Beijing 2008.

Only Ken Lester was younger when he competed as a rowing coxswain for Britain at just 13 in Rome 1960.

A meteoric rise saw Plymouth native Daley win the under-18 national junior title at 10 in 2004 before he became the youngest ever winner of a British senior title in 2007, taking the individual platform event.

Victory at the European Championships in March 2008 made him the youngest ever European champion in either swimming or diving.

But the big fame really came when Daley performed in front of an adoring home crowd at London 2012 where he won individual bronze at 18.

A coveted gold medal somehow eluded him at Rio 2016 where he set an Olympic record in the semi-finals of the individual event, but a series of disastrous dives ended in elimination.

"Heartbroken," was the word he used.

Another bronze medal in Rio eased the pain slightly, but there's no doubt about what Daley's true ambition is.

Tom Daley's Son

It's no secret that the two biggest dreams of Britain's most celebrated diver have always been:

  1. to become a father
  2. to win Olympic gold

Daley lost his own father when he was just 17 in 2011.

Now he's a devoted dad himself, realising that dream on the 27th June 2018 with husband Lance when Robbie Ray Black-Daley was born.

Husband and Dad first, Diver second

While Devon's superstar diver is now also a superstar dad, getting married and having a son has brought a sense of security and motivated him even more on the diving board.

"Being married makes you feel really safe," Daley told the Irish Examiner in September 2018, "and it’s so comforting to know I’m coming home to my husband. It’s stability."

His spouse Dustin Lance Black is 44 and writes Hollywood scripts, they met in 2013.

"We're quite a romantic couple. Lance is so caring, protective and sensitive and amazingly supportive of my career. I never think about the age gap - if anything, I'm probably the more mature one out of the two of us.

"We really connected when we first met in 2013 because we'd both suffered a bereavement. I lost my dad in 2011, he lost his older brother in 2012 and then he lost his mum in 2014. He knew what it was like to lose really important family members and that's created such a strong bond between us."

“He’s been through very tough times himself. His father left home early in his childhood, and his mother was partially paralysed by polio.”

"Hungry to win"

Love, happiness and becoming a dad haven't poured water on Daley's burning ambition, however.

If anything, the arrival of his son Robbie has made him even more "hungry to win".

"It's hard to be away from him," Daley told BBC Sport just before the London World Series, "I want to be there to feed him, or have cuddles but I have to be away for training and competitions so it's up to me to make sure every moment counts."

This renewed sense of purpose comes after he took a break last year due to illnesses and injuries, and admitted that he even considered leaving the sport behind.

Now he's in a very different place: fully recovered physically allied to a strong mental routine that gives him the presence of mind in the moments that matter most.

With the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July, and the clock ticking down to Tokyo 2020 where he'll be 26, meditation, mindfulness, and much more may see Britain's golden boy of diving make another lifelong dream come true.