Olympic diver Chris Mears says his friendship with fellow diver Tom Daley now means he has several gay mates.

Mears has posed topless on the front cover of this month’s Gay Times (GT) as part of its charity ‘naked’ issue.

The 19-year-old spoke of Daley, who in December was rumoured to be dating Lauren Pope from The Only Is Way Is Essex, and said: “I’m trying to steal his gay fan base by doing this shoot for GT!”

He continued: “I have no issues at all being around gay people and I know a few people through Tom who are gay and I’m good friends with them. I’ve got quite a few gay followers of my own through Twitter – I went from 1,000 before the Olympics to 110,000 after it. And I’ve had a couple of funny suggestions, normally guys asking for foursomes with me, Tom and Jack Laugher.”

Mears, who has a girl friend, admits he understands but doesn’t agree with why gay athletes keep their sexuality a secret.

Dressage medallist Carl Hester was the only gay person to be open about their sexuality in Team GB during last year’s Olympic Games.

“If you are a high profile athlete, your fan base is usually quite female,” Mears explains to GT, “and I wonder if gay athletes don’t come out because they’re trying not to appeal to a smaller market. But their decision is definitely money and media orientated and they think they’ll get more attention if they don’t come out. It’s quite a bad thing, if you can’t be who you are then you’re not giving your fans the real you. You’re selling someone else to them.”

Mears admits the most common question he’s asked is ‘Do you know Tom Daley?’ but says: “It’s not frustrating at all because I know how famous Tom is,” adding, “and it’s brought me some publicity so I can’t argue with that. Tom is a brilliant, well-rounded person. He is fantastic dealing with the media and then going on the board and doing his thing.

“We all were willing him to get an Olympic medal and there was so much pressure mounted on that kid, probably more than any other athlete. But I don’t think I’d like his level of fame because you can’t even go to Sainsbury’s to buy a baguette without people knowing. He deals with it well and it gives him so many opportunities.”