Tom Daley has urged LGBTQ sportspeople who are in the closet to come out and “inspire” young people. The Olympic diver made the comments in an interview with Yahoo UK.

Daley acknowledged the difficulties in coming out, saying: “I’m sure that in the world of sport there are people that are closeted and feel they can’t come out and feel trapped and I feel really bad for them because it’s such a weight on your shoulders to be living like that.

“Everyone is ready at different times and there is no right or wrong way to do it, it’s just a matter of being able to do it when you’re ready.”

But speaking about how young people might react, he added: “But knowing that people in sport, especially a high profile sport, if you were to come out and share your personal story it would help so many young children that look up to you – whether it be a football player or a rugby player – and think, ‘Oh wow! Who I am isn’t going to stop me being able to achieve my dreams in sport.’

“If anything, being slightly different and being that person can help you be stronger and deal with a lot of different pressures when it comes to competition.”

Speaking about his own experience, he said: “I think for anyone, whether they’re in sport or not, it is a daunting time to think about coming out and telling people about yourself and who you are.

“I built it up to be one of the craziest and scariest things and I thought the world is going to end, it’s this terrible event. It didn’t and I was like, ‘Oh okay that wasn’t so bad.’

“I know that isn’t the same for everyone, I’m very lucky to have had that experience but I think there’s something really powerful about sharing your personal stories.

“Just being able to share personal stories can help change people’s hearts and when you change people’s hearts you change their minds and the way they think about things.”

The diver also spoke out about the rise of homophobic hate crimes in the UK, saying: “It’s shocking to see in this day and age that things like that can happen.

“I think people should be lifting people up and celebrating differences. When people are attacking people for being different it just baffles me.”

Daley’s comments come weeks after Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy made similar remarks. In an interview with Ask Men, when asked about being LGBTQ he said “athletes staying in the closet for their career and coming out post-retirement are cowardly.”

He then added: “I understand it, I know why they would have to do that, but I think that it’s cowardly. It just really shows that they’re ashamed of themselves, and they’re afraid. I just don’t think that they should let those fears consume them.”

Related: Tom Daley explains why he’s become more vocal about LGBTQ rights on the world stage

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