Tokyo Olympics uncertainty for Sheffield athlete after Diving World Cup postponement

A Sheffield athlete faces a nervous wait to discover whether she will have the chance to compete for a place at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

By Steve Jones
Thursday, 8th April 2021, 4:01 pm

Clare Cryan from Ecclesall, who is a professional diver normally based at Ponds Forge, was in Dublin preparing for the Diving World Cup in Japan this month – an Olympic qualifying event – before the event was postponed for a fourth time because of coronavirus.

Now, with the start of the Games just three months away, the 27-year-old 3m springboard competitor is in “limbo” for the next few weeks until she discovers how qualification will be decided.

If it will be based on the 2019 World Cup results, Clare is “right on the borderline," according to her trainer Tom Owens.

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Clare's hopes of competing in the Olympics hang in the balance.

He said: “It leaves us in a bit of a no man’s land in terms of whether people are going or not.”

Tom said he expects the World Cup to be cancelled altogether – and was pessimistic about the prospect of future competitions going ahead this year, including Tokyo.

He added: “My gut feeling is that it [Tokyo] is going to get called off. The writing was on the wall last year. That’s what’s happened with every event from then until now.

"It makes a lot of sense just to draw a line under it all and let this generation refocus on the next four-year cycle.”

Tokyo would be Clare's final major event.

Despite public protestations from organisers, uncertainty persists about the delayed Games, with public polls revealing low support due to Covid-19 concerns.

Japan’s vaccination drive is also far behind that of most major economies and there have been growing concerns more infectious strains of the virus could be driving a potential fourth wave of infections in the country.

Cancellation would be heartbreak for former Sheffield Hallam student Clare, who admitted Tokyo will be her last major competition.

She left the sport for one year in 2016 and worked performing diving routines on a cruise ship before returning with a three-year plan to push herself as hard as possible, which has taken her to the verge of Olympic qualification.

Clare said: “It would be unbelievable. The whole journey I’ve been on, it’s not been the most normal. The Olympics was never something I thought was in my reach as a young kid starting diving aged nine.

"At some point I have got to start moving on and focusing on life after diving. It would be nice if the Olympics is the last event.”

Clare, who represents Ireland through her grandparents, has spent the majority of the pandemic training in Dublin away from family and friends while Ponds Forge has been shut.

Tom added: “From Clare’s perspective I desperately want Tokyo to go ahead. She’s never been the most talented athlete, she’s always been under people at the club and in the country, but she’s worked her socks off.”

For now, however, Clare must continue training as normal under a cloud of uncertainty. She is still set to compete at the European Diving Championships in Hungary next month but this is not an Olympic qualifying event.

Clare said: “We have just got to keep preparing as if they are on. You have got to keep working towards it, you don’t want to be left hanging if you have taken the pedal off.