Former Wales rugby union international Gareth Thomas has backed Tom Daley’s decision to come out and believes the 19-year-old can inspire a new generation of athletes to be open and honest about their sexuality.
Thomas, who announced he was gay in 2009, described Daley’s announcement as a “great positive message”, and added that he hoped it would help alter the perception of gay and bisexual sports people around the world.
Writing in his blog on the sport social network Sportlobster, Thomas said: “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 publicly about their 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.”
Unlike Daley, who revealed his bisexuality in a self-made, five-and-a-half minute Youtube clip, Thomas chose to come out in a newspaper interview. Work has already started on a movie about his life, in which he is played by Mickey Rourke.
Thomas added: “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.”