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Tom Daley has opened up about the impact homophobic trolls have had on him throughout his illustrious diving career.
The Olympic medallist is one of the most celebrated British athletes in his field, but he still faces “vile” homophobic abuse on social media over his sexual orientation.
In an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography Coming Up for Air, published by the i newspaper, Tom Daley detailed some of the worst trolling he has faced on social media.
Daley said he has an “amazing following and huge amounts of support”, but he admitted that the negative comments still stick with him.
“There are always voices in the midst of support, flinging homophobic comments or worse into the web,” Daley wrote.
The diver and keen knitter revealed that the worst example of trolling he has faced came in 2012 after he and Peter Waterfield bowed out of the synchronised competition without a medal.
“I retweeted a message one troll sent me which read, ‘You let your dad down I hope you know that,'” he wrote. Tom Daley’s father Robert tragically died from a brain tumour in 2011.
“I had added, ‘After giving it my all… you get idiots sending me this…’ sending it to my millions of followers with an easy click. I have become more resilient to these kinds of messages, but back then I was still learning to not let it affect me.”
The troll initially “attempted to backtrack”, but he then started directing abuse at someone else who had rushed to defend Daley.
“He wrote, ‘I’m going to find you and I’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky t**t you’re a nobody people like you make me sick.’
“It wasn’t me at the receiving end of it this time, but it magnified the issue of cyberbullying. It is hurtful and no one should have to deal with it. I felt awful that I had been caught up in something so vile.”
Tom Daley has received abuse ‘from all angles’ on social media
Tom Daley also revealed that a Christian group tweeted him telling him that the way he lived his personal life was the reason Rio “had not gone well” in 2016.
“Some days, I had it from all angles,” he wrote.
In the years since, Daley has learned to take a step back from social media and now avoids reading too many replies to his posts.
“I post what I want to as I feel that is most representative of what I am doing at the time and hope that I never see the negative stuff, that it surrounds me like water in the pool and simply slips off me without me even really noticing,” the acclaimed diver wrote.
Tom Daley thinks those who send him hateful comments are “compensating for a lack of confidence in themselves”.
“I’ve come to understand that social media almost acts as a barrier that people can hide behind when they are letting out their darkest thoughts,” he wrote.
He went on to say he hopes social media is no longer a “thing” in the way it is now when his son Robbie grows up, adding that he has had to set “very firm boundaries” around his own social media use.