GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA
British world champion diver Tom Daley on Friday urged gay footballers to be open about their sexuality, saying homosexual role models in high-profile sports could make a huge difference to young fans' lives.
Daley, who came out as gay aged 19, said there were very few openly homosexual athletes competing in his sport as he was growing up.
"It can be a really scary thing to grow up like that (feeling different) so to have someone like a footballer being open, to see that I think could be life changing for lots of young kids," he said at the World Championships in Gwangju.
"Once that starts to happen I can just imagine all the little kids see that and think 'oh it's ok that I'm different, I can still achieve my dreams'," he added.
It is not the first time Daley, who will compete in the 10 metre platform final on Saturday, has been outspoken on gay issues.
After winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last year, the 25-year-old called on nations who outlaw homosexuality to relax their stance. More than 30 Commonwealth countries have anti-gay laws in place.
In Gwangju, Daley said Greg Louganis, a four-time Olympic diving champion and LGBT activist, was "a massive idol" of his as a teenager but the American waited until after retirement to reveal his sexuality.
"I think for lots of young kids if they were able to see some of their idols be themselves and not be ashamed, I think it sends a very powerful message," he said.
"Just being able to share your personal stories can really help change hearts," he added.
Daley has already bagged a bronze at Gwangju, securing the third spot in the synchronised 10 metre platform alongside Matt Lee.