Young Sheffield diver Freddie Woodward always recalls on a particular day at his Ponds Forge training base as his overriding inspiration to achieve in a sport that has had limited success.
The story starts when Leon Taylor ended a 44-year wait for a British medal in diving when he landed a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
His success resonated with Woodward, but it was when Taylor came to Ponds Forge in Sheffield to share his experiences, and gave Woodward the chance to feel the satisfying weight of achievement, that the ‘dream’ really started.
“When I first started he was around training in Sheffield and he was in his prime at that time,” Woodward said of Taylor.
“He gave us a few talks, we watched him train and after he won his silver in Athens he brought it into training.
“He put it round my neck and that was a really special moment. It really started a dream. I just wanted to emulate Leon. That is the dream.”
Today, Ecclesall youngster Woodward, 19 in a fortnight, will begin what he describes as the biggest competition of his career. This weekend’s British Gas Diving Championships at Pondos Forge, today, tomorrow and Sunday, stand in his way of a place at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
“The Commonwealth Games are a much bigger goal than the Olympics because it is actually tangible.
“It is close. This competition this weekend is going to be important for that and I would love to make the Commonwealth team.
“It’s also great that the Nationals are here at Ponds Forge, the pool I have trained in my whole life; it is going to be an exciting competition.”
Woodward has been preparing for this weekend’s event for six months, practising between 25 to 30 hours a week.
Since stepping out from the junior ranks, Woodward, who will compete in the 1m springboard individual and 3m synchro with his partner Nick Robinson-Baker, the double Olympian, tonight – admits that he has ‘quite heavily’ exceeded his, and everybody else’s, expectations and wants emulate what his hero did in Athens nearly a decade ago and succeed by producing his best dives to date.
“I need personal bests, but they are possible,” He added.
“I am going to have to dive really well and the focus is on being consistent. I have been doing really well with that recently and that is what has got me the results.”
n British Gas championships timetable - today: 10am; 2.15 and 4.45; tomorrow: 10am, 2.30 and 5.15; Sunday: 10am and 2.50.