Weekend Interview: Teenager Lois Toulson has the world at her feet

Lois Toulson, 18, whilst training at the Aquatics Centre John Charles Centre of Sport, Middleton, Leeds.
Lois Toulson, 18, whilst training at the Aquatics Centre John Charles Centre of Sport, Middleton, Leeds.
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MODEST Lois Toulson will never be one to shout from the rooftops about her achievements.

The Leeds diver would be entitled to with not many lucky enough to be a double European champion and Olympian, let alone at her age.

A golden girl – who is also dating an Olympics golden boy in Leeds club-mate Jack Laugher.

A shining couple, as the girl with the world at her feet heads for her first ever World Championships at just 17 years of age.

Toulson is the rising star of the ever-thriving City Of Leeds Diving Club which sent six members to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Partnered with 28-year-old Tonia Couch in the 10m women’s synchro, Toulson was one of them and the man who a few months later would end up being her boyfriend – Laugher – was another.

Both are now preparing for this month’s World Championships in Budapest which 22-year-old Laugher will look to better his two bronzes achieved at the 2015 Worlds in Kazan.

As a 20-year-old, Laugher took bronze in both the 3m springboard event and 3m synchro event alongside Chris Mears – one year before the duo took Rio Olympics gold.

Toulson was just 15 at the time of the 2015 Worlds but already making a name for herself having become national champion in the 10m platform event just a matter of months before.

A first Worlds is next on the agenda and there is no denying that especially as an individual diver, Toulson’s best times are undoubtedly still to come.

As well as taking gold in the 10m mixed synchro event alongside fellow Leeds diver Matty Lee, Toulson took individual 10m gold at last month’s Europeans despite having focused on her synchro exploits and revealed: “I’m at a bit of a disadvantage at the moment because some of my dives are a bit easier because I haven’t been doing it for that long.

“I’d only just recently started doing my individual dives again because I’d been focusing on synchro with Tonia for the past two years leading up to the Olympics.

“I started my individuals again towards the end of the 2016 and the start of this year so hopefully next year I will have some bigger dives and be able to get bigger scores and be able to get further up in the rankings.

“It’s all going in the right direction but obviously I would like to learn some harder dives to get up there with the best so that we are on a level playing field in the competition.

“I’d definitely like to see where I can get in my individual and I’d definitely like to carry on doing the synchro because I really enjoy doing that.

“Obviously I don’t know how long Tonia is going to stay on for so I just want to make the most of that and enjoy every competition with her.

“Last year was obviously a big year for me going to Rio and now I feel more like I fit in when we go away to competitions – that I’m not just the young one but part of the team and that everyone knows me.

“It’s given me a lot more confidence going into other competitions,” added the Yorkshire diver.

Toulson was just 16 when stepping out at Rio but went close to winning a medal as the teenager and Couch finished fifth. Toulson’s appearance at Rio also provided a missing family jigsaw piece after the diver’s great uncle, decathlete Colin Andrews – missed out on selection for the 1960 Rome Olympics despite being the British and Commonwealth champion and record holder who had won that year’s trials.

“I thought about that before I went away but when I was out there I just focused on my diving really,” said Toulson.

“But it definitely made me proud.” The teen will now compete in both the 10m synchro and individual events at this month’s worlds and has different expectations for both.

Toulson might have taken gold at the European Championships last month but admitted: “The worlds a bit of a step up!

“I don’t know, we’ll see, I’m hoping to just have a good competition and hopefully, ideally I want to make it through to the semi finals because last time I did the individuals at the World Cup I didn’t make it through to the semis. I just want to gradually step up.

“I went in to the Europeans knowing that I could do pretty well but obviously with me just re-starting my individual again and getting a score like that and to win, I was really pleased.”

Assessing her chances with Couch in the synchro, Toulson reasoned: “I think our chances are pretty high.

“In synchro there’s a lot of people doing the same dives and it’s always really close.

“At the World Series this year we managed to get a bronze in one of the legs in Canada and we will be diving against the same sort of people out there. It is possible but we’ll see.”

However Toulson fares, there is guaranteed to be plenty to celebrate over the summer, both in and out of the pool.

The youngster could soon be taking her life up a gear having began driving lessons earlier this year while the busy youngster is also juggling her diving exploits with her education in studying an A-level in sports studies at Elliott Hudson College.

The diver has also recently taken on ambassador roles with the Leeds United Foundation and the Howarth Foundation.

Toulson will also celebrate her 18th birthday on September 26 yet the diver’s idea of the perfect present will actually arrive around a month before when the youngster and Laugher embark on their first ever holiday together – to Thailand.

The duo have already travelled to numerous countries together through their diving exploits but Toulson is relishing the prospect of something rather different this time.

Opening up about her relationship with Laugher which began some six months ago, Toulson beamed: “From like the end of 2015 when I first joined the team A which is all the senior top divers I was obviously going away on trips to all the World Series which is like eight competitions over the past years.

“Then there is all the World Cups and obviously the Olympics and obviously Jack trains at Leeds.

“We spent a hell of a lot of time together and we are all so close and it just kind of happened.

“I think we are coming up to six months together now and it’s going really good.

“Because we are both in the same sport, it’s just really nice that we understand each other and if we are both having a bad day then we can empathise and help each other out.”

Bad days are rare though, and there ought to be plenty for the couple to celebrate in Thailand later this summer – just before the diver’s 18th.

Toulson smiled: “I have no idea about presents but just before my 18th me and Jack are going away to Thailand so that’s a bit of a treat.

“I am really looking forward to that.

“These World Championships will be like the end of our season and then we have got a nice holiday to look forward to so that will be good. I will come back and it will be my birthday.

“It will be weird to go away and not have to go training in the swimming pool every day!”