Monday night at the pool

In every conversation I’ve had about Freyathlon, people always ask if I’m dreading any of the events. And I always reply: ‘I’m anxious about the diving.’ There’s a beat, then they say: ‘Oh. The ten metre board.’ And we nod at each other.

I have never knowingly dived off anything. And I was more than a little anxious when I booked a Dive for all session in the diving pool at the London Aquatics Centre. Trace was less anxious and more excited but she’s Australian and has been swimming (if not diving) for almost 50 years.

The locker area and main changing area are unisex, although there’s also a women-only changing area, with cubicles large enough to accommodate family groups. In the changing area I spotted Pete from SwimDemCrew and grabbed the chance for a quick chat – which was really a delaying tactic on my part.

Bubbles!
Bubbles!

Roar of the crowd

Eventually there was nothing for it but to walk into the pool area. It was my first time at London Aquatics Centre and I was surprised how spacious and quiet it was. If I’d sold tickets (which I probably could have done given the level of interest from friends and family about my diving prowess), I imagine the roar of the crowd would have been deafening.

We walked past the swimming pool where some of the SwimDemCrew were warming up and I tried not to gawp at the 10m platform, which seemed to be perched worryingly close to the roof. Poolside there were a couple of spring boards on one side of the pool and an arrangement of platforms on the opposite side.

I watched a group from the Tom Daley Diving Academy take it in turns to twist and somersault from the 1m springboard and my stomach started to tighten. The lifeguard told us the Dive for all session (a public drop-in session) wasn’t due to start until the classes had finished so we loitered by the wall and I tried to chat in a relaxed manner – as relaxed as anyone can be in a swimsuit, on a Monday evening, about to dive into a pool for the first time.

The Dive for all session means you can use the 1m, 3m and 5m diving platforms and the 1m spring boards. I had plenty of time to take in the height and mechanics of each platform and board.

Our time came and we moved to the edge of the pool.

Rebecca Gallantree in fine form
Rebecca Gallantree in fine form

Watching and waiting

Trace jumped in. I didn’t.

I watched people make elegant and inelegant shapes as they left the board. I watched people spinning and dropping through the air. I watched people glide and crash into the water.

I stood on the edge of the pool.

I watched the lifeguard signal when people could jump from each platform. I watched people divebomb from the edge of the pool. I watched people scurry excitedly between the platforms and the spring boards.

I stood on the edge of the pool.

I watched the clock as the minutes passed on the hour I’d booked. I watched people in the stands and wondered whether they were wondering what the hell I was doing. I watched everyone else having fun.

I stood on the edge of the pool.

Trace asked me what I thought would happen if I jumped in. I said if I told her that would make it real.

I stood on the edge of the pool.

Tonia Couch tucks in a somersault
Tonia Couch tucks in a somersault

On a roll

And then I jumped.

I hit the water and sank. I watched the bubbles around me and wanted to laugh. It felt lovely being forced down through the water then pushing back up. I surfaced and laughed.

‘Spring board next. You’re on a roll.’

I took my place in the queue but when my turn came I told a woman behind me to go ahead: ‘I’ll only take your place if you go next.’

I walked along the board and it moved. I knew I couldn’t turn back and remembered how I’d felt on the balance beam in the artistic gymnastics. I steadied my breathing, focused on the wall opposite and walked to the end of the board. I took a breath, made a small bounce and stepped off the board, feet first. The bubbles. The bubbles were beautiful and tickled my skin.

I swam to the side and we headed to the 1m platform. I waited until I thought the lifeguard had given me the nod, then checked he meant me. As I hit the water I realised I preferred the flexibility of the spring board, and hurried to try it again.

Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree at the Commonwealth Games
Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree at the Commonwealth Games

Fears

Travelling home on the DLR we talked about why I’d found it so difficult to jump, and what I hadn’t wanted to say when we’d been poolside.

I had been anxious about:

  • jumping from something solid, into the air, and landing in something that wasn’t solid
  • sinking to the bottom of the pool
  • hitting my head or injuring myself
  • colliding with another diver
  • not having enough breath.

None of these things happened.

Platforms and spring boards
Platforms and spring boards

It had taken me almost 40 minutes to step off the edge of the pool but, once I’d done it, I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t ready for the 3m or 5m platform on that Monday evening, but I’m going to find someone to show me how to dive headfirst. I’ll be back for another Dive for all session, and I will jump from the 3m and 5m platforms.

 

Diving. 20 June 2016

London Aquatics Centre

TeamFreya: Trace

Cost: £8