Tokyo Olympics: The Winner-Knitter

While watching other athletes in action, Great Britain’s Tom Daley kept busy by knitting. 👍🏼

Would any Olympian bring along knitting needles and yarn to the Games? And actually sit in the stand to knit? Diver Tom Daley would. And did. Photos making social-media rounds last weekend showed the diving gold medalist seated, hands together, with an incomplete purple-pink sheath of knitted yarn. Mr Daley did not only draw the world’s applause (perhaps, except Russia’s!) for the gold medal that he won in the men’s synchronized 10-meter platform event alongside diving partner Matty Lee, but also for his dexterity with the knit-stitch, seen so clearly. The action was attention-grabbing as the project-in-action, with a loose yarn draped across his right thigh (presumably ending in a ball in a bag placed on the ground), contrasts rather dramatically with the athlete’s attire of singlet and shorts, which projected something more physical than needlecraft. And more so if you consider the setting: the world’s biggest and grandest sporting meet.

Mr Daley was not the first guy seen at the Olympics going way beyond the first slipknot. Back in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, Finland’s snowboarding coach Antti Kroskinsen was filmed knitting while compatriot snowboarder Roope Tonteri was preparing to start a competition. Mr Kroskinsen was working with black yarn, and this blended with the black of his winter coat, but the action was unmistakable: he was turning loose yarn into stitches. This time in Japan’s capital, Mr Daley’s craft work seemed at odds with the scorching temperature experienced in the city, with participants calling this “Tokyo summer the worst in the history of the Olympics”, as reported by CNN. Still, Mr Daley knitted coolly away—the heat did not seem to bother him. In fact, he is such an ardent knitter that he has his own Instagram page, madewithlovebytomdaley in which many of his pieces are shown, including a little case, sporting the British flag on one side and the Japanese on the other, shaped to house his gold medal.

Not only was Tom Daley’s knitting skills (learned during last year’s lockdown in the UK)—and design flair—on display, his generosity was too. Yahoo News reported that he also knitted an orange/pink cardigan for Malaysian diver Cheong Jun Hoong (張俊虹, silver medalist in Rio 2016), whom he called “dear friend”. Mr Daley’s participation in Tokyo 2020 as a publicly-out gay athlete is seen as standing up for the LGBTQ communities around the world, as well as showing how inclusive the Games of the XXXII Olympiad is. In addition to that, he, too, demonstrated visibly that knitting is not just a “feminine interest” and that athletics and craft do mingle.

Photo: Getty Images

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