After meeting in a gymnastics class aged seven, Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow made the successful transition into diving and have gone on to become GB’s most successful ever female diving partnership.
We caught up with the pair during their pre-season training at the Plymouth Life Centre to talk the switch from gymnastics to diving, competing against a friend and talent ID campaign Girls4Gold.
How’s training going?
Tonia: We’re training really hard because we haven’t got any competitions until next year, so we’re doing lots of heavy weights to build up our strength, it’s hard work!
Sarah: This time is all about getting fit again after having some time off. We’re doing lots of endurance work, it’s tiring but it’s going well. In the pool, I’m looking pretty sharp, just getting a bit nervous about going on the 10m board again!
What’s the next big goal for you?
Sarah: Our next goal will be January Nationals and I’ll be hoping to win the syncro with Tonia, as well as going for gold in the individual, where Tonia will be my rival. After that it will be the Commonwealth Games and I’m really looking forward to that with it being in Glasgow.
And what are your aspirations for Glasgow 2014?
Tonia: I’d love to win a medal at the Commonwealths with Sarah, but it’ll be a tough competition, the best girls in the world will be there, but we’ll give it our best shot.
You’ve been friends for a long time, what’s it like competing both together and against each other?
Sarah: We’ve grown up together and we’ve been competing against each other since the age of eight so we’re used to it. You don’t question it when you’re younger, it’s just normal. Tonia does well in some competitions, I do well in others. We’re a team as well, and as a synchro pair you want your partner to do well, if one of us does well and the other one doesn’t, we’re there to console each other, it doesn’t matter how well I’ve done if Tonia hasn’t, or the other way round, we’re there for each other.
You have a great set up here at the Plymouth Life Centre, how important is that?
Tonia: The pool we used to train in was horrendous, and our gymnastics area was a squash court, now we have a proper gym and a pool where we can practice 10m synchro, so it’s a lot better here in Plymouth.
Sarah: We’ve got a great team behind us, I’ve been working with Andy [Banks] since I was 12, I had a four year break when I went to Leeds but I came back. My weights coach, physio, everyone is there to make sure we’re at that top level.
And how does Lottery funding help?
Sarah: If I didn’t have Lottery funding, I wouldn’t be diving as well as I am because I’d have to go and get a job, it enables me to train and enjoy my life, I wouldn’t be able to train and compete at the level I do without it.
Tonia: I’m 24 years old now and I’ve been doing this for ten years now, without the Lottery funding that wouldn’t have been possible.
How did you get into diving?
Sarah: I got into diving through Tonia, we were in the same gymnastics group from the age of seven and when she moved into diving, I went along with her for a trial session. Andy [Banks] picked us out and invited us back in the April, I did my first competition in the August and won it, so I quit gymnastics!
Tonia: It [the transition from gymnastics] was hard, there are similarities but it’s still very different, so it was hard to change my technique, but I soon picked it up.
UK Sport is currently running the talent ID campaign Girls4Gold, seeking talented female athletes with the potential to make the Olympic Games, what is the best thing about being a top female athlete?
Sarah: The best thing about being an athlete is doing the job you love, I’ve grown up with sport and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. I was a gymnast before I started diving, so if you’re doing a sport and it’s not working for you, try a new one. I think doing a sport you’re interested in, or maybe a sport that you admire somebody in, helps a lot.
Tonia: If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be good at it, work hard and enjoy every moment of it, it doesn’t last long, I’ve been doing this for 14 years and it’s flown by! It’s great to make your family and friends proud, especially down in Plymouth, I’m always in the paper and people are always coming up to me and congratulating me. It will be nice when I retire to be able to remember those things.
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