'Splash!' was a flop, but its fans are diving in
The critics may have rubbished Tom Daley's show, but it has lured plenty of fresh recruits to the nation's pools
Emily Dugan is social affairs correspondent for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards.
Sunday 03 February 2013
The critics called Splash! celebrity television's "biggest belly flop", but as Tom Daley's diving show concluded last night, there was evidence that it had achieved one notable success. Diving centres across the country report a dramatic influx of new recruits in the past month, with some even seeing their intake double in less than four weeks.
The Independent on Sunday spoke to 15 diving centres around the UK that all recorded a significant rise in new divers since the show began last month. Most now have waiting lists of children and say the show has even encouraged adults to give it a go.
Adrian Hinchliffe, an Olympic coach who runs the north of England's high-performance diving centre, said Leeds City diving club was reaping the rewards of the show. "It's having a really positive effect on the sport," he said. "A year ago we had 80 children at entry level. Now we have 150 and we've got waiting lists. The parents even want to do a competition themselves and organise their own Splash! as a fundraiser. I've never heard of the parents wanting to have a go: they normally just bring their kids. The wheel was turning from the Olympic Games and this programme has enabled it to turn faster."
In the ITV1 show Daley coached 15 celebrities in platform and springboard diving before they took part in contests in front of a live audience. It reached its showdown last night as the former Olympic ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, television presenter Linda Barker and Benidorm actor Jake Canuso battled it out.
The series was panned by critics, who called it "water torture" and the "worst programme ever" after its first episode featured largely D-list celebrities and got weak viewing figures. But it became the most watched show on Saturday nights and now many swimming pools are struggling to cope with the surge of interest.
Janet Ward, a coach at the Bury Dragons diving club in Manchester, said: "Since Splash! we have had 28 inquiries through our website – last January we had none – and many more calls. Most of our lessons are full, and we have a waiting list that has now been closed because there are too many people on it."
Sam Buck, Cambridge diving's head coach, said: "As a result of Splash! we have had a dramatic increase in adult inquiries and we are putting on three parents' nights. All have been fully signed up with 18 adults each night."
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