I had been struggling to really get into the Olympics this time around, perhaps for obvious reasons. Maybe it was because most events take place when I should be sleeping, or because the Olympics are run by people with no regard for anything but the bottom line. The latter point has always been true, but the addition of COVID-19 into the cocktail of shit that happens every four years really sapped my interest this time around.
I don’t love that! The Olympics are also incredible showings of human talent, and as I’ve seen—not live, but rather on Twitter or on this very website—there is little that can match the excitement that comes from succeeding at the pinnacle of a chosen sport. This is where Tom Daley comes in.
This year’s Olympics were Daley’s fourth crack at trying to win a gold medal as the “face” of British diving; he didn’t place in two events at Beijing 2008, before winning bronze at London 2012 (10 meter platform) and Rio 2016 (10 meter synchronized). And yet, there he was, standing on the platform with his diving partner Matty Lee, a gold medal in their sights. They just needed to be perfect with their hardest dive of the Games—forward 4 1/2 somersaults—and then hope that it was enough to beat China’s duo of Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen. You can probably tell from the headline what happened:
I have always loved diving at the Olympics, even though I don’t understand it fully (that’s generally the case for events that require scoring). It’s a visual treat for even a noob like myself. Even I could tell, though, that Daley and Lee were perfect. The celebration from the duo’s coach, Jane Figueiredo, said it all, really. She knew immediately that they could not have done better.
The real reason that Daley is now my favorite Olympian of the 2021 Games has nothing to do with his and Lee’s performance, though, as it impressive as it was. Instead, and true to form, I am now a big fan because Daley is a prolific poster of wholesome content. After he and Lee received their gold medals, he posted a video recapping the madness that comes from finally getting to the top of podium, alongside celebration videos from his friends, family, and spouse, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. He also threw in a little joke about having to wait for his fourth time around, while Lee, who is just 23 years old, got one at his first Games:
Though his YouTube channel has more subscribers, it is actually Daley’s Instagram account that I devoured after I learned of its existence on Tuesday. See, Daley isn’t just a gold medalist; he’s also a delightful knitter who uses his finished designs to raise money for the Brain Tumor Charity, which he has been raising money for since his father passed away from a brain tumor in 2011.
He also knitted a medal holder, just in case, and now he can put his damn gold medal in it:
His and Black’s son, Robbie, gets to show off some designs, and I’m sorry, but this knit hoodie is the most adorable thing I’ve seen in some time. I want a version of it ASAP:
Hell, even the couple’s cats are getting in on the action:
It can be hard to remember that Olympians aren’t just machines focused on winning gold every four years before they mostly disappear from the public eye. Daley has been documenting his time away from the platform and the pool for long enough, though, that it’s just as easy to picture him knitting a new sweater or doing YouTube reaction videos with silly thumbnails as it is to see him practicing his dives. That human touch managed to grab my attention past the morass of disappointments and COVID-19 scares that have been, to me, the story of these Olympics.