You couldn’t mistake the smiling features of teenage sporting sensation Tom Daley during London 2012.
He was the poster boy of the summer Olympic Games and although he didn’t return with the gold medal the British public had hoped, Daley has left a sporting legacy whose ripples are being felt in Eastbourne.
The sport of diving is on the increase in the UK thanks to the Daley effect, although the biggest issue is finding enough facilities in the country to cope with the demand.
Eastbourne’s Sovereign Centre has seen a huge rise in divers as part of the Olympic effect.
The centre has seen a 65 per cent increase in participation since August and hopes to maintain the push for more future Tom Daleys.
A lot of the hard work and dedication to increase the numbers of divers is because of coach Tony Gaskell, who runs all the sessions at both youth and adult levels.
Gaskell said, “Since the Olympics I have had to put on five extra one hour sessions per week. In August, the Sovereign Centre put on a free dive session and all 32 who attended stayed for more.”
Tony began working as a coach in Eastbourne only two years ago after taking early retirement from nursing.
He has been a qualified diving coach for 18 years but is the only coach in the East Sussex area so there is plenty of pressure on him.
The coach added, “If anything were to happen to me that would be it for diving here. I am trying to get help with coaching but it is very expensive to train up someone.
“This isn’t really a job for me but a passion.”
“The enthusiasm coming from the young divers on a bleak autumn afternoon showed real love for the sport.
On top of three-metre board the divers looked at home whilst laughing and joking to one another before taking the plunge.
One of the young divers, Finley Naylor, said, “I train four days a week and it is really good here. I love achieving a new dive that you didn’t know you could do.”
The new talent is tipped for great things according to coach Gaskell who is an ex-diver for Brighton Dolphins.
Currently, there is a one-metre springboard and a three-metre platform in the Sovereign Centre. Gaskell is hoping to bring in more coaches and new diving boards to work with.
Stuart Garratt, 26, began his own diving career in Eastbourne aged ten. He works as a volunteer at the centre to help Tony with the diving club.
He said, “I am training to become a coach as well as competing for Eastbourne. I only started coaching as a volunteer six months ago and do it when I have time away from work.”
In May the Sovereign Centre held its first ever diving competition, run by Tony Gaskell.
The event had a strong turn-out, the youngest of the competitors aged just six-years-old.
If you are interested in you or your child getting involved in diving in Eastbourne enquire online at: www.eastbourneleisurecentres.com/sovereign_centre