Gareth Thomas: Tom Daley will inspire young gay people, Ex-rugby international hopes many take inspiration from Olympian’s honesty and future success.
“Hopefully this will give other kids and adults the strength to be honest and take a lot of inspiration from his story,” says ex-Wales rugby international, Gareth Thomas, who announced he is gay in 2009, becoming one of the first openly homosexual male athletes in any major sports team.“I don’t think someone coming out is enough – I think it’s his story after coming out that will inspire others. If he goes to Rio and wins the gold medal and has a fantastic life after that it will show other athletes that being honest and open is a good thing to do. Hopefully he can re-focus now and concentrate on his sport and show that being a gay athlete doesn’t define who you are.“Tom now needs to be true to who he is and not be who anyone else wants him to be. He has a big responsibility as he is now potentially responsible for many people having the confidence to come out publically about their sexuality. His announcement will change people’s lives and make lives better. He is now a role model who has influence over thousands, maybe even millions of people so that’s a huge amount of responsibility, which I’m sure he’ll take seriously once he realises just how much influence he has.“I came out to my family and close friends, and then two years later I came out in a newspaper. Often people ask me why I felt I had to come out, as it’s not an issue for them. We’re now in an age dominated by social media and so many people are interested in celebrities and their lifestyles outside of what they do for a living, that you have to come out publicly if you want to walk down the street hand in hand or go to a pub and drink without people talking and spreading vicious rumours. I came out in a public way because I wanted to live my life in a way that I wanted to and not be judged by people.“I thought it was very personal the way Tom made the announcement – you’re watching on YouTube and it’s almost like he’s talking to you. I thought it was a very humbling and genuine way of doing it and I take my hat off to him. People might look at the life he is living and think it’s fantastic but he’s been through a lot. You could see in his eyes that all he really wants is to be Tom Daley the diver and not have lots of people questioning him for his sexuality.“What Tom has done is very significant in other ways, because he’s so young and he’s fairly near the start of his career – it’s a great positive message to the world. For him to do it at such a young age is not only testament to him but to society. When I was playing it just wouldn’t have been possible to come out at his age in the rugby world. It was very much a different place then and I wouldn’t have found the acceptance that I found when I eventually did do it.“Tom is a great diver and this is just a declaration of who he is sexually, not a declaration of who he is as a person. I’ve watched him in the Olympics and, like most of the nation, felt like I was standing on the edge of every diving board with him. I know he’s a hugely successful young lad with a great life ahead of him. I just hope that this announcement makes his life even better.“I was never under pressure to come out and I didn’t do it because I wanted to be some kind of flag-bearer, it was just a position that I was put in. The more people that come out as being gay, the better the world is.“The world is constantly changing and people get educated every single day. When I first started playing rugby, being openly gay and progressing at the sport wasn’t possible. Now it’s been proven that it can be done, not just in rugby but across all sports.”