British Diving Championships: City of Sheffield Diving Club wins ‘amazing’ six medals at Ponds Forge

A Sheffield diving club underlined its credentials to match the country's best with six medals at the sport's biggest domestic competition.

Monday, 30th May 2022, 2:43 pm

Four athletes representing City of Sheffield Diving Club earned podium places at the British Diving Championships at Ponds Forge last weekend, including Yasmin Harper, who won two gold medals.

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“Six medals was absolutely brilliant,” said Nikki Smith, who runs the club alongside her partner Tom Owens.

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From left to right: Oscar Wilcox, Jordan Houlden, Tom Owens - head coach at Sheffield Diving, Yasmin Harper and Maisie Bond.

"It was amazing to have it at Ponds Forge. During Covid the other pools in Leeds, London and Edinburgh stayed open, but Ponds Forge was shut for an extra six months.

"We had to do whatever we could to keep going, we had divers training in our back garden.”

Harper, aged 21, held off the challenge of Rio Olympian and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Grace Reid to claim the Women’s 1m and 3m Springboard titles.

Elsewhere, Jordan Houlden, 23, took silver in the Men’s 1m and 3m Springboard, finishing second behind Olympic gold medallist Jack Laugher in both events.

The 13-strong Sheffield Diving team with the club's coaches. Nikki is pictured furthest right.

Yasmin and Jordan also achieved the Commonwealth Games and World Aquatics Championships qualification mark and scored new personal bests.

“It feels pretty special,” Nikki said of their achievements.

“I’m very, very proud. They have both been with the club all their diving lives.”

Jordan has been diving for 13 years and was a bronze medallist in the Men’s 3m Synchro at the 2019 European Championships.

But his hopes of competing at Tokyo were shattered last year when he was unable to leave his job as a carer in Sheffield to follow the club to Edinburgh, where some members temporarily relocated to train while Ponds Forge was shut.

Now his diving career is back on track.

Nikki added: “Jordan couldn’t swim when he started, he’s gone from a non-swimmer to nearly being national champion.

"It’s a huge PB for him in front of a home crowd with lots of our little divers and families watching. It’s special to do that in front of the little divers in our club that are aspiring to be like him.”

Two of Sheffield Diving’s most promising young talents also medalled.

Oscar Wilcox, who was competing in his first senior national championships aged 14, finished sixth in the Men’s 1m Springboard final and took bronze in the Men's 3m Synchro with Todd Geegus from Southend Diving.

Maisie Bond, 15, finished second in the Women’s 10m Synchro with her partner, Tokyo Olympian Lois Toulson, from City of Leeds Diving Club.

Nikki added: “A lot of the divers in London have come from different places, they are not home-grown.

"Our divers are from Sheffield and have spent their whole careers with Sheffield Diving, it shows we can make elite divers.”

Reflecting on the club’s most challenging hour at the height of the coronavirus pandemic when Britain was in lockdown and Ponds Forge ‘mothballed’, Nikki said: “There were times of desperation, it felt like the end.

"If you wanted to be an elite diver in Sheffield you needed to move to Leeds or London. It feels like all the hard work has finally paid off.”