I have a difficult time saying no to things. This has got me into a lot of trouble in the past. It has also, I have to admit, got me into some very interesting situations. I covered the Beijing Olympics for The Independent back in 2008 and I spent a very enjoyable day watching the high diving. That was Tom Daley's first Olympics, and I remember being astonished at how young he was. Little did I know that, five years later, I would be standing on the 10-metre board with the very same Tom Daley, both of us about to go off – one slightly more elegantly than the other. But Tom will improve, I'm sure … he's only young.
Yes, dear reader, cover your eyes, because I have agreed to appear on ITV's new Saturday night show Splash! in which "celebrities" are taught to dive by Daley and a team of trainers, before performing live in front of the nation. When my agent got the request she emailed it through to me with a forceful "Presume this is a No?". I emailed her back to say otherwise. For I have a secret diving history.
When I was a kid, my dad would endlessly try to teach me to do a "splash-free dive" and we would often go on picnics to secluded river valleys in Lebanon where we would jump off rocks into ice-cold pools. Every summer I go to Canada where I continue the family tradition by encouraging my kids to hurl themselves off cliffs into the lake with me. From any real height, I tend to jump rather than dive, and it was this that led me to accept the Splash! invitation. Every year, as I'm standing on the top of some Canadian cliff trying to make myself jump, some cocky little six- year-old barges past me and does an impressive flip. I am getting on and, before my cliff-jumping days come to an end, I want, just once, to be able to pull off my own spectacular trick for the floating audience of boaters below – plus I'm a bit of a show-off and rather relish the opportunity of testing my mettle in a live situation.
It has not been easy: the speed at which you hit the water from the top board is 40 miles an hour and, if you have your arms in the wrong place, then you know about it. When training, the pool has a machine that can force air into the water and "soften" the landing; this is not an option during competition, however. So far, I have not been given the tiny towel that divers carry so that they can dry their thighs to get a better grip in some tricky move … somehow, I don't think that this will be my main problem.
I have had several sleepless nights in which I imagine myself in the spotlight, sequinned up, with the crowd booing as I cave in and refuse to jump. Eventually, Vernon Kay, in embarrassing shorts, pulls out a handgun and forces me off the board and I plummet to my doom. My big night is next Saturday. If you are a fan of diving, cheese or tragedy then you might want to tune in.
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