Sheffield divers return to Ponds Forge after a year of challenges

Written by Eloise Maddocks

This year has been full of challenges for Sheffield Diving Club. Last week marked the first anniversary of the closure of their training facility, Ponds Forge, when divers were asked to leave the pool and the country headed into lockdown.

Things did not get much better from there. When indoor facilities were allowed to reopen last summer, Sheffield City Trust decided that Ponds Forge was too expensive to reopen and announced it would remain shut until April 2021.

After a huge campaign to overturn the decision, the council invested £1.6 million to allow the pool to reopen at the end of October. However, 10 days later, the country went back into lockdown, and the pool was forced to close its doors once more.

Ponds Forge Diving Club.

Sheffield Diving will be allowed to return to Ponds Forge this week, but only for five of their most elite athletes to train. The pool will open to the wider public on 12 April, providing the government’s criteria in their lockdown exit strategy is met.

Nikki Smith, a former diver and coach, is now the Diving Manager at Ponds Forge and said: “If there’s been a bit of bad luck, we’ve had it.”

“Everyone’s desperate to get back in the pool again. It really shows you what you take for granted. I can’t wait to just stand by the side of the pool and watch people dive and do what they enjoy – keeping fit and keeping healthy,” she said.

Ponds Forge was opened in 1991 for the World Student Games and became home Sheffield Diving Club. The club has had an olympian at every Olympic games since 1992.

Sheffield diver Rebecca Vega. Credit: David Keep Photography.

Though the club are unsure whether this year’s Tokyo Olympics will go ahead, they have 24 divers are on national programmes – from kids aged 11 on the England squad, to divers that are competing at the top level for team GB.

13-year-old Maisie Bond is currently the youngest diver on the British diving squad – even younger than when Tom Daly was put on. She is one of the few who will return this week and is currently training for the commonwealth games, with her eye on the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The club were recently shortlisted in the Sport and Community Recreation awards, for ‘Resilience in Adversity,’ an acknowledgement of their dedication to keep the divers going through lockdown.

Since they were first ordered to stay at home, the club have held a huge range of online sessions for their athletes. Whether it is online Taekwondo, yoga, or ballet, they have found creative ways maintain their athletes’ strength and fitness.

The Sheffield Divers try an Australian Style quiz and fitness session. Credit: Sheffield Diving

However, as well as their physical training, the club have also found ways to keep the athletes’ spirits up and bring the team closer. “We’ve done club zoom quizzes, scavenger hunts, cooking, bingo, and even lego competitions.

It’s brought us together in a lot of ways,” said Mrs Smith. “Just looking back on the things we’ve done this year, it makes you smile. There’s a lot of good times we can look back on and some good memories.”

Written by Eloise Maddocks

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