Tom Daley appreciates the “great and welcome distraction” of knitting as he kept his bid to become double Olympic champion alive by qualifying for the semi-finals of the men’s 10 metres individual platform.
Daley has been pictured with his needles and thread while watching team-mates on several occasions during Tokyo 2020, where he has already claimed one gold medal after winning the synchronised event alongside Matty Lee.
He was it again in between his own dives on Friday afternoon, where he overcame a modest start in the preliminaries to finish fourth out of 29 competitors, with a best points score of 94.5 and an overall total of 453.7.
Daley believes his hobby, which he started just before the first UK lockdown in March last year, has been a comforting way to take his mind away from the Games, especially given he was last in competitive action on July 26.
“Honestly, I think it’s made a massive difference,” he said. “There’s a long wait in between the synchro and the individual and there’s a lot of time to think. My time to think has been replaced with knitting.
“It’s been such a great and welcome distraction for me. I’m someone that’s really bad at resting. I sit there, I fidget, I bite my nails, whatever it is, so being able to knit has been a really helpful thing.
“In between rounds I was knitting just because it allows you to come out of it for a little bit because if you’re constantly thinking about diving you’re all the way up here all the time, it can be quite draining.
“People do different things during competition. I’ve seen people using colouring books, playing games on their phone or listen to music or lay down. There’s something different for everyone to be able to get their escape and I’m grateful and lucky that I feel like I’ve found something that I enjoy to do.”
The 27-year-old’s Instagram account, madewithlovebytomdaley, is dedicated to knitting and crocheting and has amassed 1.1million followers, where he recently unveiled the fruits of his labour: a Team GB cardigan.
With that completed, Daley revealed his latest project was to knit a dog jumper for a friend of his but he got sidetracked by a Games official on Friday who asked him to design an item of clothing for a stuffed toy.
“They had this little toy and said, ‘wouldn’t it be cute to have a little scarf for it?’. So I literally knitted the toy a scarf,” said Daley, who added that he taught himself to knit by watching YouTube tutorials.
“I didn’t have to count any stitches or do anything, it’s just something that’s so simple that it was literally just almost mind-numbingly boring. But I love knitting so I don’t find it boring. Row after row after row without having to count, that’s what I wanted to be able to do, the space I wanted to go into.”
Daley sat outside the top-18 qualification places after over-rotating on his first dive, a score of 56.1 from his reverse three and a half somersaults with tuck only good enough for 23rd spot at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
He gradually improved, moving up to 18th then 12th by the halfway stage with solid, if unspectacular dives, before an armstand back three somersaults with pike brought his best score of 94.5 and a place in the top six.
He finished strongly with his last two dives but British team-mate Noah Williams missed out on joining Daley in the next stage – the semis and final will both take place on Saturday – after finishing 27th.
Williams, competing in his first Games, disclosed he came close to hitting one of the boards with his fourth dive.
“That shook me up a bit because nearly hitting the board is never fun,” he said.
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