Welcome to our 2022 Recognition Afternoon.
Pre Covid, we held an annual awards presentation in the spring of each year, and we were fortunate enough to be able to fit in an event in September 2020 between lockdown periods where we recognised the achievements of our divers and coaches during the 2019 season. The Albatross coaches and committee have now decided to reintroduce the annual awards in September each year to reflect the previous season with the first of these being at this time next year.
This afternoon, however, we recognised the resilience, determination and teamanship of our divers over the past 2 years. We were at the Scottish National Cup in Edinburgh in December 2019 when Covid was first mentioned on the evening news, we just continued eating our dinner and talking about the days diving. Late January 2020 we were staying in another Airbnb at the British Championships this time in Plymouth and there were a few more mentions and the first recording of European cases was being announced. In February 2020 we were back in Plymouth for the Armada Cup, UK case numbers were being reported daily and rising exponentially, we were watching the news by this point but who could have predicted what was ahead.
We said it in the autumn of 2020 and on numerous occasions since, we are proud of all our divers and coaches, they are incredible. The older divers have grown from children to young adults as we watched the news, navigated lockdowns, restrictions, zoom (that no one had ever heard of before!!), masks wearing, social distancing, instructions, more instructions, and even more instructions. But here we are, and we have, this afternoon, cause to celebrate an incredible season.
The club has grown to 70 divers, with around half new to diving over the past 18 months. We have a waiting list of a further 20 divers and have outgrown our previous capacity so from this month have booked additional pool and dry training times. Diving has for the past 3 years been a streamed sport at the top level, the senior Europeans was on the BBC.
We run both a community and competitive programme and, during the past year, all our competitive divers were able to enjoy competition on the national stage. All 7 of our Skills divers qualified and competed at National Skills. All 8 of our AG divers qualified and competed at National Age Groups. Quinn, James, and Lauren competed at the GB Elites, the only National event of 2021 and Lauren competed again this year. We applaud you all.
Because of our success we do not always appreciate that not all divers have these opportunities. Not all clubs compete at all national levels, some do not compete at all. Not all divers qualify for their national events. All our divers who entered the qualifiers were successful in reaching their respective qualification standard. We have, here today, a number of our newly formed Right Track squad who are starting their own competitive journey with us with a view to progressing to National Skills potentially next year. We also have with us some of our Learn to Dive divers who, at present, dive recreationally, but no less enthusiastically and reward us each week with their delight in learning new skills, facing up to new challenges and having fun. We applaud you.
As I said this afternoon is a recognition of the achievements of you all, which have been remarkable, but we have a few names to mention:
Lauren, as our current Elite diver, is not able to join us today as she is trialling for the British Diving Talent Programme. We have a recognition award for her as a winner of 2 silver medals at this year’s GB Elites in Southend where she was supported by Malcolm as coach and Matt and Charlotte who attended as National Judges.
Moving on to our Age Group divers. We had 8 divers qualify for National Age Groups: Hernan, Molly, Maya, Harry, Joe, Meah Finlay Stratford and only joining the team from Dubai at the actual event in Plymouth, Naya. They were supported at the Nationals by Malcolm, Chris and James as coaches and Matt as a National Judge.
Hernan, Maya, Molly and Harry all medalled at National Age Groups. Hernan won double gold at National Age Groups on both springboards and despite limited training also won a synchro silver with teammate Harry. A massive achievement. Molly has had periods of injury and in meeting a gruelling workload as she applies for veterinary school next year, has reduced her training programme but, despite all this, still rose to the national challenge and claimed a justly deserved silver medal on platform.
Maya too has had an incredible year with outstanding diving at the Armada Cup winning all the prelims and taking gold at the Southeast Regionals. She was then rewarded with a silver medal on 3m and bronze on platform at the nationals. Harry is perhaps the most improved Age Group diver in the squad. Having periods of struggle, particularly at qualifying events in the past, Harry won gold on platform and silver on 1m and silver in 3m synchro with Hernan. Harry leaves us shortly to become a skiing coach in Canada, but he will return next April when we hope to attract him back to the club as a coach.
As we recognise Harry, Molly and Mayas platform achievements please remember we only have access to 7.5m and 10m platforms for 2 hours a month and they were competing against divers from clubs whose home pools have these facilities available for each session. Perhaps these divers felt a little miffed, but such is the supportiveness of our sport, they hid it very well.
Meah is one of the most supportive divers I have come across in 12 years of attending competitions. She supports everyone with an energy that drives forward both her peers and other supporters. Its not even just at the age group events where she is competing as she also travelled with others to support her friends in the older skills group at their qualifier in Tunbridge Wells this year.
Finlay is commended as our most improved novice diver this year. He competed at National Skills in 2019 but, despite periods of injury, drew on his inner determination to qualify at the Armada Cup for the Age Group Nationals where he showed that he will be able to build a new strengthened list over the coming year to be a formidable presence at next year’s national event.
Now I would like to talk a little about National Skills. For those who don’t know how qualification works, it is an absolute score with no scope for flexibility. It is a very simple rule, but can be brutally hard, especially if you miss a 270 score over 12 dives by a couple or even just half a point. However well you train, if you do not meet the score in a regional qualification you cannot go to the national final. We had 7 divers’ trial across qualifying events in Southend, Plymouth, Tunbridge Wells and Sheffield as they, supported by coaches and family, strived to reach those magic points, Ryan, Evie, Hannah, Amelia, Finlay Whitehouse, Amy, and Ivan.
We recognise and applaud you all for your determination and skill. We have awards to present to Ryan and Evie on another day for their achievement of top 6 placing nationally and who, with Hannah and Amelia will now develop their lists further over the coming year with an aim to qualify for and dive at the 2023 National Age Groups. The National Skills divers were supported by Matt and Lizzy as coaches at the event and James as National Judge.
We, however, highlight Finlay and Amy. These divers are recognised as the most improved, both having shown outstanding perseverance and focus in relentlessly fine tuning the dives needed to qualify, with, at the end of the qualification period, almost every coach in the club contributing on a 1:1 basis to ensure they had the best possible chance. Amy drew on all her inner strength, which is formidable, in her work ethic, attending every available training session and every qualifier to not only reach the score but also win the bronze medal at the NW qualifier in Sheffield supported by Matt over the bank holiday weekend in June. Finlay, along with Hannah, Ryan, and Amelia, as an older Skills divers, had to learn, and due to Covid, learn quickly, new higher tariff dives, not dissimilar to those required as part of an Age Group list. With his last-minute inward one and a half, he cracked it.
You will have realised through this citation the level of support given to the divers by the coaching team and the level of respect afforded these individuals nationally as National Judges. We recognise with our applause: Malcolm, Chris, Matt, Lizzy, Jeff, Bernie, Charlotte, James, Lani, Edward, and our newest coach Grace. Albatross has a long history of nurturing coaches from within its membership of divers and their families and we welcome anyone over the age of 14 to join our team where you will be supported in this rewarding contribution with mentoring and nationally recognised qualification.
Right Track Squad
I mentioned earlier that we have a new Right Track Squad of budding Skills divers who have been training over the past months with James and Malcolm and, with James moving on to university shortly, will now be training with Lizzy and Matt. Their collective aim will be to qualify for next year’s National Skills, and we hope too that some of the younger ones may be able to enter the British Diving Talent Games in November 2023.
This new squad of Ariana, Sam L, Sam R, Makarii, Frankie, Ellie, Millan, Alice, Laurie, Thomas O, and Poppy have all risen to this challenge incredibly well. A little bewildered to start with they soon rose to the work ethic required both at Rivermead where James has worked with them on their core strength and conditioning and Malcolm on their take off skills and in the pool where Jeff, James and Malcolm have each contributed to building the core skills they will need to build their Skills lists. We recognise them all in their efforts, but I would like to ask Ariana, Alice, and Millan to join me having been recognised, along with Poppy who can’t be with us today, by their coaches for incredible focus and spirit and wish the whole squad well in their new competitive journey.
Finally, although not with us today, I would like to highlight Grace as a diver we also wish to personally recognise. Since joining us in 2019 she has embraced diving, attended all the pre-skills events we have offered, been both a supportive member of her squad of teenage divers and has recently added coaching to her contribution to the Albatross team. Grace, we applaud you.