Sheffield diving club forced to relocate to Scotland to keep Tokyo Olympics dream alive

A Sheffield diving club has been forced to relocate to Scotland at a cost of thousands to keep its members' Olympic dreams alive.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 8:07 pm

City of Sheffield Diving Club, which hopes to send at least one athlete to Tokyo, has been training in Edinburgh since February 7 after a pool fault at a temporary training base in Leeds left their five elite divers with nowhere to practice.

They usually train at Ponds Forge but were once again locked out when it closed at the start of the third national lockdown in January.

Tom Owens, who runs the club with his partner Nikki, said: “It's been heartbreaking and soul-destroying.

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Tom Owens, head coach at City of Sheffield Diving Club.

"We have spent so long in Sheffield. Diving has a long and illustrious history there, we work so hard to keep that going."

The club has produced at least one Olympian at every games since 1992, but the dream is over for 22-year-old Jordan Houlden.

A bronze medallist in the Men’s 3m Synchro at the 2019 European Championships, he was unable to leave his job in Sheffield as a carer to train in Edinburgh.

That, Tom said, shattered his chances of competing at the Diving World Cup scheduled for next month, which serves as a qualifying competition for the Olympic Games this summer.

City of Sheffield Diving Club have been unable to train at their Ponds Forge base since January.

Tom added: “It's been sad to have to be in a situation where a very, very talented athlete who had a fantastic season in 2019 has this year at points had to step back.

"I never thought we would be in a position where people were having to make decisions about whether or not they could train.”

Another ‘phenomenally talented’ young Sheffield diver, 13-year-old Maisie Bond, who is national champion in all events for her age category, could not come to Scotland.

Meanwhile, Olympic hopeful Clare Cryan, 27, who was born and raised in Sheffield but represents Ireland on the international stage, wanted to move home to train but opted to stay in Dublin because of the uncertainty around Ponds Forge.

Tom, who is training Ross Haslam, 23, and Yasmin Harper, 20, in Edinburgh, said: “At the moment we are a team that's been pulled apart.

"It's been very difficult and very stressful and it's required constant effort to stay motivated and focused.”

The temporary relocation has cost the three of them around £4,000 and Tom has seen his two young children, aged two and six, just twice in six weeks.

Ross and Yasmin are on standby for the British Diving World Cup squad after a qualification event was cancelled due to coronavirus and the pool fault left them unable to practice for 10 days.

Tom said: “From a purely practical perspective the selector had to name the team from last year. If we were going to have a qualifying event they were all in with a shout."

The club was recently nominated for a Resilience in Adversity award, while Nikki won The Star’s 2021 Women of Sheffield Jessica Ennis-Hill award for sport in recognition of her tireless work.

Tom added: "I’m incredibly proud of everyone. It's been a rollercoaster.

“I’ve done everything I can to ensure the elite athletes from Sheffield have been able to stay in the sport and have a fighting chance.”

The club hopes to return to Sheffield at the end of this month.