Friday, March 23, 2018

Year of Young People: Lucas Thomson

“It’s such a great community that we have in diving. A lot of us know each other well and it’s a friendly vibe. “It’s a minority sport but the opportunities are amazing."

Each month in 2018, to celebrate the Year of Young People in conjunction with the Scottish Government and Young Scot, Scottish Swimming is profiling an outstanding athlete from the world of aquatics. Last month, it was para-swimmer and swim teacher Kayeligh Haggo, and you can watch her video here.

“I am incredibly excited, I cannot wait. It’s probably the biggest event I’ve done in my diving career so yeah I’m really excited and it’s such an incredible opportunity to gain experience.”

That’s what Scottish Swimming’s latest diving prospect, 16-year-old Lucas Thomson, said on the eve of travelling to Australia for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. But when, why and how did the youngster from Balerno get into diving?

Thomson decided to take up diving on the back of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Even though he didn’t manage to get tickets to that event (though he did manage to see other sports live), the former gymnast saw something in diving that convinced him to try the sport.

Thomson said: “I started off as a gymnast, and did it for about seven years, but then I tried diving a few years ago. I went along with some friends and absolutely loved it.” Thomson hasn’t looked back since; and as of new the fifth-year pupil at Balerno High School is settling into holding camp life in Brisbane, with the rest of the aquatics squad on Team Scotland.

As someone who came to the sport rather late, Thomson was – to use a swimming pun – thrown in at the deep end. Thanks to his background in gymnastics he quickly adapted to his new sport and his coaches saw the potential in him.

He said: “I have been lucky to have had two great coaches in recent years too in the shape of Jen Leeming and Nick Robinson-Baker. They are different characters, but they have helped my progress.

“For me, as I haven’t been diving that long, I was thrown straight up to the 10m platform and told: ‘Learn these dives as quick as possible!’ and at first when you learn them the consistency isn’t quite there.

“So over the last year it’s mainly been about improving the consistency of my dives and I think that’s showed in my competition scores as well, as my score has went higher and higher. And that’s the name of game in diving, it’s all about hitting every single dive.”

Thomson best score came just at the right time, at the British Diving Championships in Plymouth, in late January. He posted a PB in the final with a score of 427.30, which sealed his place on the plane to Gold Coast and meant he came away with junior gold. He also added a bronze in 1m Springboard.

Scottish Diving Champs - Day One 2

A couple of months previous, Thomson and dive partner James Heatly secured victory in the Men’s Platform Synchro at the Scottish Diving Championships. That rounded off a remarkable year for Thomson which included he and Heatly winning silver at the FINA World Diving Grand Prix on the Gold Coast and success in Mixed 10m Synchro with Gemma McArthur, the pair winning gold at the Gold Coast Grand Prix and silver at the FINA Grand Prix in Bolzano. Thomson added individual bronze in the 10m Platform in Bolzano.

The meet in Bolzano was only Thomson’s second ever outdoor event, and he recognised the location as an “iconic setting for diving”. His impressive performance proved to be a sign things to come, rather than a one-off fluke, as evidenced by his selection to Team Scotland for the Commonwealth Games which start on April 4.

“This last year we’ve done a lot of training abroad to prepare for going out to Gold Coast,” said Thomson. “It is pretty different, you’ve got the sun and the wind and even rain possibly as well, so I’ve been to Croatia and Australia where the Games are actually going to be and it’s a beautiful facility. That should serve us well and hopefully we don’t get sunburn, which can be difficult for us Scots!

“I think for me it’s all about gaining experience and enjoying it as these moments don’t come around very often. But we do potentially have a medal chance, maybe in the synchro, so you know I’ll just do my best and see what happens.”

Thomson has enjoyed being around athletes beyond his Edinburgh Diving Club teammates, Heatly and McArthur. He said: “We don’t usually get to be with the swimmers often, it’s normally quite distinct and we train in different places, so it’s been really good gelling with everyone actually. Events like the kit day brought us together so I’ve got to know some of the others on the aquatics team quite well now.

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“As it’s a multi-sport event as well it will be good to see the others from the different sports, and hopefully if we get a chance see some of them in action as well.

When asked why other youngsters should try out diving, Thomson said: “It’s such a great community that we have in diving. A lot of us know each other well and it’s a friendly vibe.

“It’s a minority sport but the opportunities are amazing, I mean I’ve not been diving long and I’ve already been to some amazing places. It’s a great sport and yes I would definitely encourage people to try it.

“Knowing that young people could read this is really quite inspiring too, so I hope this and the Year of Young People encourages people to get out and try something new and different”

Thomson will turn 17 the day after the Commonwealth Games finishes. Could he return home with a well-earned birthday present of his own?

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