Five promising young divers from the City of Sheffield Diving Club based at Ponds Forge have the chance to emulate Olympic gold medallist Tom Daley after being selected for a prestigious programme that develops the sport’s most promising youngsters.
Lois Bruce, 12, Simeon Greig, 11, Daisy Lindsay, 11, Sebastian Willcox, 12, and Robbie Wood, 12, have all been called up to the Team Z programme run by diving’s governing body, Swim England, which Daley graduated from when it was known as the Junior Olympic programme.
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"It’s a really good stepping stone and a great foundation for them,” said Tom Owens, head coach at Sheffield Diving Club.
"If you are fortunate enough and talented enough – and work hard to be selected in that early stage – it can give you a real leg-up.”
The youngsters were selected after impressing at a national competition last month.
Tom added: "We did really well, we won the top team award and the top boys team.
"It’s the tenth time we’ve won the top team award in 11 years.
"We had a lot of kids who did really, really well and won individual medals.”
Sheffield Diving Club, which Tom runs with his partner Nikki Smith, has produced at least one Olympian at every games except Tokyo since 1992.
It is home to several international competitors, including Diving World Cup bronze medallist Ross Haslam and European Junior champion Maisie Bond and boasts around 300 members in total.
They took no fewer than 12 medals back to Sheffield from the Scottish National Diving Championships earlier this month, which included silverware for senior and junior competitors.
“It’s amazing,” Tom said of their latest round of success.
"We have an expectation in the sense that this is what we are here for – our aim is to produce elite, world-class athletes as well as give an opportunity for everyone to try diving and fulfil that potential they have.
"Coming out of Covid and the situation with Ponds Forge where it was shut, and for slightly longer than we liked [...] these things are things we have never dealt with – as no-one has – but looking at how that’s affected people it’s reassuring to know that we are still able to pick up where we left off.”
The club was forced to temporarily relocate to Scotland last year while Ponds Forge was closed due to lockdown in order to ensure its elite divers could still train.
In recognition of its efforts to keep members engaged throughout the pandemic, it was also nominated for a Resilience in Adversity Award at this year’s Community Sport and Recreation Awards.
Tom said: “They (the divers) are talented but I think it’s just some validation of the hard work we put in as a club and during Covid since we came back to keep them active and engaged. It’s paid off.
"It’s just lovely to see them back competing again. It’s great to recognise those kids, they should be. They are a really talented bunch and there’s some real superstars in there.
"I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop over the next couple of years.”