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TEAM TARGETS OLYMPICS WITH BEST EVER RESULT
25th February 2008
Britain surpassed the highest of expectations on their way to achieving sporting history in Beijing this week in qualifying for every event on the Olympic programme.
Jodie McGroarty (Women's 3m) finished off a job that started seven days ago at the FINA Diving World Cup with Britain looking to qualify the nation, in some instances the athletes themselves, for Olympic places.
McGroarty finished fourth to give Britain the possibility of a maximum of 14 diving places.
For National Performance Director Steve Foley the World Cup result marks an end to a transition period British Diving has undergone since 2004 with a new generation this week taking the sport to new heights.
"There was a feeling and an aura about this team when we first came together a month ago in Leeds," said Foley. "You could sense it and people commented on it. There's an inner confidence and belief, and it's carried them through what could be the toughest competition of their careers.
"This is certainly the most successful World Cup ever for British Diving. In fact it could be viewed as our greatest result at any international competition. It certainly ranks up there with 2004 and the Olympics."
"We've managed to qualify all four of our synchro teams and we'll compete in every individual event as well - only China, as host nation, Germany, Australia, Russia and the U.S. have achieved that so it shows we're up there in the top echelon of world diving."
After the high points of an Olympic medal in Athens and a World Championship medal in 2005, British Diving has seen a generation retire and a new one come through what is proving to be a very productive system.
It's taken time for the younger athletes to believe in their potential and live with the best in the world but that time arrived this week in Beijing.
"The athletes have done a great job off the boards but it's been their attitude and professionalism while not competing that has stood out for me also," said Foley. "It's what we all dreamt about but they came here believing they could do it and they didn't disappoint.
"They've made massive sacrifices in the pursuit of excellence but they appreciate it's been worth it. They didn't have Christmas because the British Championships fell early in January, but they just got on with the job of preparing.
"They adhered to a meticulous plan which they fully adopted and over the past 28 days we've been together they've executed it perfectly."
With every Olympic event featuring a British diver Foley believes the Beijing Games could usher in an era for the sport never previously encountered.
"It's going to be an exciting Olympics for British Diving," explained Foley. "The athletes know they belong in this arena and we've seen them grow this week while many very experienced and established divers have fallen by the way side. The British divers have been giant killers.
"We came into the World Cup looking to qualify two to three synchro teams and six individual divers for the Olympics. We've far exceeded those expectations with four synchro teams and six individual spots and this is a record-breaking achievement with 14 British divers in line for Olympic places - two of which are already secured. We managed seven in Athens so we've come along way with a young team to double that.
"Our divers proved that when their backs are against the wall they have the strength and belief to deliver. They didn't falter on their final dives as we've seen in the past, they knew they belonged at the Olympics and they made sure of the places."
Whereas Britain's long term aim is the 2012 Olympics and beyond, there is now a real possibility that Beijing will provide not only vital experience but also a shot at the medals.
"We'll go into the Olympics in four finals already given our representation in the synchro events. This week in Beijing we had a bronze medal, a fourth place, a sixth and a seventh so we have to think positively and imagine we could at least challenge for medal," said Foley.
"There isn't the expectation on our shoulders that others will feel after medalling here and that's a great position to be in. We've seen in Olympics of the past that going in as favourite for a medal can sometimes backfire quite horribly and it will be up to us to take advantage if that happens.
"We're hoping this is the turning point for our current group of divers. They now know they have the talent to be among the best and this sets them up perfectly for 2012. When the London Games come around, for many it will be there second Olympics and this will be a perfect place to be."
The FINA Diving World Series in Sheffield last October was a real turning point in the transition phase of British Diving. The good results gained there gave the divers a new found confidence and this has stayed with them over the past five months.
It's something that has bonded the team together and has drawn remarks from an admiring diving community.
"The big difference I've seen in recent times is the level of team work," Foley added. "There's an incredible team spirit, every coach helps one another, whether their diver is competing or not, and behind it all is a proven support network of staff.
"Many of the other nations involved in Beijing have asked what's going on in British diving and commented on what is obviously a very strong and talented unit. There is a belief and a togetherness that is the envy of others.
"There has been so much pressure this week, in my opinion more than there is at the Olympics given the numbers involved and what's at stake, and they've coped with that very well to show the team works."
The FINA Diving World Cup takes place in Beijing from 19th to 25th February 2008.
The British Female squad comprises:
Sarah Barrow - Plymouth Diving
Monique McCarroll - Southampton Diving
Tandi Gerrard - City of Leeds
Hayley Sage - City of Sheffield
Brooke Graddon - Plymouth Diving
Jodie McGroarty - City of Sheffield
Stacie Powell - Southampton Diving
Louise Van Hoof - Southampton Diving