If your best effort at diving to date has been an ungainly belly flop into a swimming pool on holiday, you’ll probably never reach the Olympic gold medal winning standards of Team GB divers Tom Daley and Matty Lee.
But you’re never too old – or young – to learn to dive to a standard that will at least leave people around the pool impressed, rather than laughing.
Daley and Lee, who won the Men’s Synchronised 10m Platform diving gold at the Tokyo Olympics, both started diving at the age of seven, and as long as children can swim competently in deep water, they can learn to dive at swimming lessons.
“It would be brilliant if the historic performance of Tom and Matty in Tokyo provides the inspiration to get more new divers into the sport and lay the foundations for future Olympic and international success, as well as helping more and more people enjoy the sport and its benefits at all levels,” says Julian Bellan, talent and development manager, British Swimming.
But you don’t have to be a child to learn to dive – Swim England (there are equivalents across the UK: Swim Wales, and Scottish Swimming, as well as Swim Ireland) says getting into diving is easy, and explains that while children can be introduced to diving at an early age during swimming lessons, there are also many diving clubs around the UK (and Ireland), and it stresses: “No matter what age there are lots of opportunities for getting into diving. Diving isn’t just for the young or the elite, it can be done by many different people of varied strength and ability.”
And if those 10m boards look scarily high, don’t worry, you don’t have to start that far up – or ever dive from that height if you don’t fancy it. You can start by simply diving from a sitting position on the pool edge, and then gradually progress to 1m and 3m boards, and finally 10m if you’re brave enough.
For children, if the pool they’re learning in has a diving board look into whether they can take diving awards – which may be the first step on the ladder to Olympic gold.
Older divers can try learning through Masters programmes, and the benefits are much wider than just looking good when you dive into the pool on holiday. The Tom Daley Diving Academy (TDDA), which was started by Daley to share his passion for diving and sport with others, says diving can help improve physical strength, stamina and flexibility, with the added benefit of burning up to 200 calories an hour.
And while Daley and Lee’s impressive physiques clearly involve plenty of gym work as well as just diving, there’s no doubt diving will help tone you up. The TDDA also says diving can help improve mental health by focusing the mind as you try to learn new moves and synchronised routines. “It’s a fun, enjoyable way to keep fit, make friends and do something a little different,” it adds.