It’s been a fantastic few weeks for British sport, not least the fantastic display from our athletes in Rio at this year’s Olympic Games. One of the highlights of the event for me was definitely watching Jack Laugher (silver medal in 3m individual) and Chris Mears take Great Britain’s first gold medal in the synchronised 3 metre springboard. Add this to Tom Daley’s stunning diving in the 10m platform preliminaries, along with his bronze in the 10m synchronised with Daniel Goodfellow and it’s clear to see that diving in Great Britain is just getting better and better.
I have always enjoyed watching the diving in the Olympic Games and remember that magic moment in 2008 when Matthew Mitcham near as damnit pulled off THE perfect dive to win the gold medal in the 10m platform competition. I love the skill, the grace and the strength shown by the athletes and have often wondered what it must be like to perform such manoeuvres in the air, before diving into that blue water.
Buoyed up by the success of Laugher and Mears the day before, I found myself in my swimming costume standing next to the poolside at Southend Swim & Dive Centre, ready for a masterclass with Bill Clark of Southend Diving, a former national diver who has coached no fewer than three Olympians throughout his coaching career. Operated by Fusion Lifestyle, Southend Swim & Dive Centre was added to the leisure centre in 2010 and offers divers of all abilities fantastic facilities to train. The 5m deep pool (with a moveable floor) offers 1m, 3m, 5m, 7.5m and the mighty 10m platform boards, as well as 1m and 3m springboards. Behind the scenes, divers can train in the dry gym, taking advantage of the foam pit and trampolines to perfect their moves before moving to the water.
Before being taken down to the pool, Bill put us through our paces with a warm up and stretches, which really worked the core, and explained the importance of retaining body positon. Our mission for the day was to learn the forward line up – the finishing position for divers as they rip into the water, with a straight body, minimising splash. It’s important to engage your core, keep your arms locked and your feet together, with your toes pointed.
I’m not a strong swimmer as you know, especially if you read my aquathon post, but diving is an entirely different skill and although I was nervous to begin with, I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable I felt in the water and couldn’t wait to get started.
So, am I headed for Tokyo in 2020? Perhaps not, but my introduction to diving has led to me wanting more. We started on the side of the pool, progressing to the 1m platform before finally being allowed to jump off the 3m. I’m under no illusions about my diving ability, but apparently I’m not too bad. Tom Daly has nothing to worry about, but I can’t help thinking it would be pretty cool to dive off the 10m…I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been looking at adult lessons!
Diving is exhilarating and fun, not to mention a great sport for boosting fitness levels. Health benefits include strengthening the upper body and core, toning muscles and improving flexibility. Contact your local Fusion centre for details, or for those looking to build their confidence in the water, check out the Fusion Swim School.