How Sheffield’s Jane Cooke returned to the top in world diving after 12 years out of the water

Jane Cooke at the World Masters in Budapest where she won two gold medals, with coach Russ Preece
Jane Cooke at the World Masters in Budapest where she won two gold medals, with coach Russ Preece
0
Have your say

A 41-year-old mother of two stunned the diving world by winning two world championship golds...after 12 years out of the water.

Jane Cooke took top spot in the women’s 1metre and 3metre springboard at the World Masters Championships in Budapest earlier this month.

Flashback to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, 2002, as Jane (then Smith) wins  bronze in the women's 1metre springboard.
PA photo: Rui Vieira.

Flashback to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, 2002, as Jane (then Smith) wins bronze in the women's 1metre springboard. PA photo: Rui Vieira.

She competed in the 40-44 age category at the same venue where British diving’s poster boy Tom Daley won a World Championship gold last month.

Jane, who lives in Millhouses, is a former professional diver. Her impressive sporting CV includes two bronze medals at the 2002 Commonwealth games and appearances at two Olympic games - Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, where she finished fourth in the 3metre synchronised diving event.

“It’s definitely one of my highlights to come away with two (winners medals). At 41 it’s not something you ever thought you would achieve when you do retire,” said Jane.

“It’s something that I’m proud of, and it was nice that I was able to share it with my children. When I was diving before, I didn’t have my two girls then. It was nice for them to watch me and see me achieve, and see that they were really proud as well.

“I’ve done lots of weird and wonderful things in my life; I did Gladiators and Ninja Warrior and stuff like that. I set myself targets and goals and to think that I’m still achieving them at 41 is great.”

A former two-time Gladiators champion, Jane hadn’t trained or competed in diving for 12 years after retiring in 2004. Her inspiration to return came from her children Annabel and Chloe.

“My daughters who are now eight and ten started diving, so I was watching them from the balcony and about a year ago I just thought I would get back in the pool, but not with the intention to compete again,” she said.

“Everyone said I bet you can still dive. You never really know when you have had 12 years out of water so I got back in a year ago and the coach Russ who went out there (Budapest) with us said ‘It’s worlds (World Championships) next summer’ and I was like ‘No, I wouldn’t do something like that’. But I did and it was brilliant. It was great to be back in the pool and competing. It all comes flooding back to you.”

Such was the margin of Jane’s victory in the 3metre event, she could have forfeited her final dive and still won.

Underlining her enduring quality is the fact she scored the highest of all women across every age category in the championship for both the 1metre and 3metre events.

“You don’t really know what dives your competitors will do and with this being a World I thought if I can get the harder dives going and do them well, then it puts me in a good stance to potentially medal or do well. But I didn’t expect to do it as well, or to win as comfortably,” said Jane.

The PE teacher paid tributes to the pupils and parents at Ashdell preparatory school who fundraised to help cover the costs of the trip.

She said: “The girls at my school were really excited and very supportive of me and engaged in what I was doing, and hopefully are proud of my success.”

And the newly-crowned world champion hasn’t ruled out competing again.

“There’s European championships next September. It’s something that I’ll hopefully look to compete at and who knows? Maybe I’ll become a European champion.”