Former rugby player Gareth Thomas has congratulated Tom Daley for having the courage to speak openly about being in a same-sex relationship.

The 19-year-old, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games, posted a video on YouTube in which he spoke for the first time about his relationship on Monday.

Blogging on the sport social network, Sportlobster, Gareth Thomas said: “I don’t think someone coming out is enough – I think it’s his story after coming out that will inspire others. If he goes to Rio and wins the gold medal and has a fantastic life after that it will show other athletes that being honest and open is a good thing to do. Hopefully he can re-focus now and concentrate on his sport and show that being a gay athlete doesn’t define who you are.

“Tom now needs to be true to who he is and not be who anyone else wants him to be. He has a big responsibility as he is now potentially responsible for many people having the confidence to come out publicly about their sexuality. His announcement will change people’s lives and make lives better. He is now a role model who has influence over thousands, maybe even millions of people so that’s a huge amount of responsibility, which I’m sure he’ll take seriously once he realises just how much influence he has.”

Thomas continued: “I thought it was very personal the way Tom made the announcement – you’re watching on YouTube and it’s almost like he’s talking to you. I thought it was a very humbling and genuine way of doing it and I take my hat off to him. People might look at the life he is living and think it’s fantastic but he’s been through a lot. You could see in his eyes that all he really wants is to be Tom Daley the diver and not have lots of people questioning him for his sexuality.

“What Tom has done is very significant in other ways, because he’s so young and he’s fairly near the start of his career – it’s a great positive message to the world. For him to do it at such a young age is not only testament to him but to society.  When I was playing it just wouldn’t have been possible to come out at his age in the rugby world. It was very much a different place then and I wouldn’t have found the acceptance that I found when I eventually did do it.”

He added: “Tom is a great diver and this is just a declaration of who he is sexually, not a declaration of who he is as a person. I’ve watched him in the Olympics and, like most of the nation, felt like I was standing on the edge of every diving board with him. I know he’s a hugely successful young lad with a great life ahead of him. I just hope that this announcement makes his life even better.”

Gareth Thomas became rugby’s first openly gay professional player to come out and continue playing in 2009.

He announced his retirement in October 2011.