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SA divers hit form ahead of Commonwealth Games

By Mark Etheridge

While 29 South African swimmers posted qualifying times for the 2018 Commonwealth Games the country’s top divers were also doing their stuff.

Four divers met Swimming South Africa and the technical diving committee’s section criteria agreed upon with national sports umbrella body SASCOC.

Of course, it must be remembered that eligibility is not an open and shut guarantee of selection.

The quartet of successful divers (all based in the United States) competed over four different events – the 3-metre synchronised event, the one, three and 10-metre individual events.

Micaela Bouter and Nicole Gillis both qualified three times (3m synchronised and one and three-metre events). Rio Olympian Julia Vincent also qualified in the 1m and 3m disciplines.

The fourth qualification came in the daunting 10m event in the form of Jaime Gundry.

South African diving will hopefully make a long overdue return to the Commonwealth Games. The last time the rainbow nation had representation at the ‘Friendly Games’ was also in Australia, 11 years ago when Jenna Dreyer was an outstanding fourth in the 1m final and ninth in the 3m final in Melbourne

The presence of the senior internationals meant that the next generation of stars had their idols back on the board and many great training moments were experienced as the seniors supported and helped and congratulated the juniors on their achievements.

This was also an opportunity for the juniors to compete against their idols and assess how much more work the needed to achieve the same standards.

All in all, it was a positive moment for diving in South Africa.

In fact so inspirational was it that 14-year-old junior Bailey Heydra even managed to edge out Olympian Vincent in the preliminary round of the 3m event.

Bouter stayed on in Africa to get some down time before the resumption of training and competition. She told Team SA from neighbouring Mozambique: ‘I was so happy with my diving in these CWG trials. Preparing for them was so tough because we were all finishing our final exams for the semester while trying to train intensely at the same time.

‘I came into the competition with the goal of simply qualifying for the games and ended up diving very consistently in all four of my individual competitions and in synchro.

‘Coming away with a first place in the 3m competition was so exciting and encouraging for me because I have been working on getting and perfecting new, harder dives this whole year and this was a good end to all that work!’

It’s going to be a busy time for 22-year-old Bouter on her return to the University of Houston.

‘I’ll be competing for my university right up until we hopefully head out for Commonwealth Games. I’ll be competing in two quad meets, Conference championships, Zone diving qualifying Championships and NCAAs hopefully – our season ends in mid March!

The four young qualifiers have now been representing South Africa at senior International events since the FINA World Championships in Barcelona in 2013 and prior to that represented South Africa at the FINA World Junior Championships in Tucson and Adelaide respectively.

Additional excitement for South African diving was the outstanding performances of the junior divers who entered the trials for experience, and while they didn’t achieve all the criteria, they certainly let the seniors know that they are close to if not capable of beating them.

In the main picture is Bouter in synchro action behind Gills and in the other picture (left to right) Gillis, Jenna Douglas, Heydra, Olivia van Volllenhoven, and Bouter.

Pictures courtesy of Dominique Philippopoulos