Tom Daley has opened up about his battle with COVID-19 just months before his victory at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 27-year-old won gold in the 10 metre synchronised platform diving competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo – a first for the professional diver.
Daley previously won two bronze medals at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as well as a third at Tokyo 2020.
However, he has since revealed that the road to this year’s Games was not an easy one after falling victim to coronavirus.
Speaking about this for the first time to The Times Magazine, he says: “It was a Monday morning in January this year and I started training but had a headache. I felt dizzy, but put it down to a diving concussion from a few weeks earlier.
“The following day, my sore head continued so I took a lateral flow test so we could rule out COVID.”
Despite a negative result, the diver decided to tone down his training schedule and, by Friday, “woke up with a really sore throat, like razor blades were in the back of my throat.”
Things quickly escalated. He continues: “All of a sudden I had a very high fever, and was either freezing cold or burning hot. My teeth chattered so hard and my skull ached. I hadn’t felt that bad since I had pneumonia.
“Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body. My husband, Lance, had to help me down the stairs and to the bathroom.”
Daley reveals that he “honestly felt like I might die” because of the severity of COVID-19’s impact on him.
After eventually testing positive for the virus, he was taken into hospital because of his symptoms and history with pneumonia.
“Going into hospital in an ambulance with COVID was scary,” he tells The Times Magazine.
“I felt conflicting emotions: on the one hand, I felt bad because I knew the NHS, particularly in London where I lived, was so overwhelmed by the virus. I knew I was really sick, and it was Saturday night, so I wouldn’t be able to speak to a consultant until Monday.
“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill. I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”
Daley said he started to improve three days after his trip to the hospital, where he was kept for 10 hours to be monitored and tested.
He quickly got back on his feet and seven months later won his first Olympic gold medal.
“You can’t let your competitors think that they’ve got one up on you. I wanted them to think that I was training as hard as them,” he reveals to The Times Magazine.
“I spent the first three months of this year not diving, only using the power of visualisation – just imagining myself doing the dives day in, day out.
“I would consider myself to be quite a healthy person, but Covid doesn’t discriminate at all.”
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