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Diving heartthrob: From bullying victim to phenom

NEED TO KNOW
  • There's more to diver Tom Daley than his sex symbol status
  • Daley endured severe bullying and the death of his father prior to his 2012 Olympic appearance
Diving heartthrob: From bullying victim to phenom

The 2012 Olympics are brimming with inspirational stories. As part of our Olympic coverage, each day HLNtv.com will spotlight someone that inspires us  -- someone to root for.

Tom Daley is quite the thing in the UK these days. At the tender age of 18, Daley is already a diving phenom and his boyish look coupled with a diver's mature physique has made him the apple of many, many eyes.

But there's more to him than that. Daley is a staunch anti-bullying advocate, having admitted to being severely bullied following his appearance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics (which, by the way, made him England's youngest competitor in those games). The torment became so unbearable Daley had to switch schools, but he leaned on his friends and the inspiration of his accomplishments to carry him through.

“The friends who helped me are still my best friends today. It helped me realize who my true friends were. It made me stronger," Daley says of his dark days of bullying. "I look back and think: ‘I came through that,’ and I think I’m a better person.”

To add to the stress, in 2011, Daley lost one of his biggest supporters and his "best friend" -- his father, Rob Daley. Rob Daley succumbed to brain cancer last May, and Daley says he thinks about his father's unwavering pride and support every day.

"He’s always been, and still is, a big, big motivation and inspiration to me," Daley says. "I’ll go into the competition focused on my performance, but it’ll be my dad I’ll be thinking about before and afterwards.”

At 18, Daley is still young, and the world seems to be pounding down his door with offers of modeling contracts, projects and even a potential boy band gig. For now though, Daley is focused on gold. He will compete Friday in the men's 10-meter platform diving semifinals. If he qualifies, he will represent Team GB in Saturday's final.

 

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