THERE is good reason why Australia have “rolled the red carpet out” to welcome Leeds-based Ady Hinchliffe as the country’s new head diving coach.
The 45-year-old’s efforts in taking divers to the last five Olympic Games have not gone unnoticed.
Had Hinchliffe had his way, a sixth Olympic Games with Team GB at Tokyo 2020 would have been a formality.
Yet, instead, the red, white and blue of Great Britain will be swapped for the green and gold kit of Australia for a coach who says his own ambitions failed to match those of British Diving.
Through his role as head diving coach for Leeds City Council and High Performance coach (consultant) for British Diving, Hinchliffe played an integral part in helping his country’s diving team to their most successful Olympic Games ever at Rio 2016.
Leeds-based Jack Laugher and Chris Mears secured gold in the men’s 3m synchro event, with Laugher also taking silver in the men’s 3m individual platform.
They didn’t agree with what I wanted to do and my values and I’m not going to waste my time and try and do it the hard way or in a way that I don’t believe in.Diving coach, Ady Hinchcliffe
Five athletes from Leeds formed nearly half of the Team GB diving contingent in South America, giving Hinchliffe hope that British Diving would offer him a full-time role.
Having also helped Leeds divers represent their nation at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Hinchliffe’s track record was hard to quibble with.
Tandi Gerrard, the athlete whom he helped to the 2004 and 2008 Games, is now his fiancee and mother of the couple’s three-year-old twin girls Lydia and Lexie.
The couple will now tie the knot in 2018 at an event where many a glass will be raised to the coach who has helped transform the image and success of British Diving.
That celebration will now take place in Australia, with Hinchliffe stating he was left with no choice but to desert his home nation in pursuit of furthering his own career for life Down Under after British Diving opted against offering the coach a full-time role.
Despite his impressive CV, Hinchliffe still only worked on a part-time basis for British Diving alongside his full-time role for Leeds City Council, and, but for a switch to Team Australia, that situation was not set to change.
Hinchliffe and his young family will now depart for a full-time role in Brisbane next month but the coach told The Yorkshire Post: “I wanted these guys to create this role for me, to do things properly, very similarly to what they have done with Mel Marshall and Olympic swimming champion Adam Peaty where they have taken Mel into Loughborough.
“She is the head coach at Loughborough now and everything that probably Adam needs from his coach. I’d have liked that to have been done in diving and it hasn’t happened.
“The frustrating side to it is dealing with sitting down with Jack and explaining to him that I’m out, that I can no longer be a part of what’s going on, which is very sad. It is frustrating to sit down with my family and tell them that I am going to the other side of the world. It’s very difficult to go through all of that.
“It was the right decision, definitely, but that’s where the frustration and the emotion around the decision lies.”
Asked if he would have stayed with Team GB had he been offered a full-time role, Hinchliffe readily admits: “I think so, yes. I have always been very proud and passionate about working for Great Britain and we’ve come on a long journey over the 20-odd years I have been involved and I am incredibly proud of that. But there’s those people out there that make those decisions and that’s not me.
“I’m a coach and I’m not easy to work with but I am very demanding and I knew my vision, especially for someone like Jack moving forward, unfortunately didn’t match theirs.
“But winning Olympic medals is big business and it’s hard work and it’s expensive.
“They didn’t agree with what I wanted to do and my values and I’m not going to waste my time and try and do it the hard way or in a way that I don’t believe in. It was an obvious route for me to go externally and, ironically, it’s a like for like role in terms of the athletes that I will be working with.
“It’s kind of like the female version of Jack over in Australia in Maddison Keeney – she is very talented and she is currently ranked four in the world.
“It’s going be interesting putting on the green and gold and doing all that but they have given me everything in terms of the role that I wanted here.”
Hinchliffe, after all, had numerous reasons to stay in a city blessed with a plethora of talented divers, including Laugher and Mears, plus recent recruit Daniel Goodfellow, who bagged a Rio Olympics bronze.
World junior medallists Lois Toulson and Katherine Torrance are tipped for the top at Tokyo 2020, while three-time Olympian Becky Gallantree is set to help out in a coaching capacity now that she has retired.
After being born in Cambridgeshire before moving to Harrogate, former junior diver Hinchliffe initially relocated to live in Eastbourne through his dad Stuart’s work. The diving coach’s dad is now battling prostate cancer.
As a youngster, brother-of-three Hinchcliffe saw his future as a diving coach and relocated to Yorkshire and Bradford in 1989 to work with Andy Banks, who ultimately helped him on the road to landing his role as Leeds diving coach through the city’s council after graduating from Leeds Met University in 1994.
Six years later, Hinchliffe helped Sally Freeman represent Leeds and Team GB at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Funding for the sport has increased since – with an extra £1.3m being put in after Rio 2016 – yet British Diving were still unable to offer Hinchliffe the role he desired. British Diving’s failure to keep Hinchliffe was described by Laugher as “a massive insult to me and Ady.”
British Diving say they were “aware that he wanted to work with the sport full-time and we were in the process of beginning discussions but, unfortunately, timescales didn’t allow these to conclude.”
“Obviously we had a great Games on the back of the medals and that was always going to happen,” said Hinchliffe, speaking about the funding increase. “And the feedback I got was they had already earmarked the extra money for other things.
“There was extra money for a support team and they are on a camp this week in Southend which, for me personally, I think is a big waste of money.
“But while it’s all right me pointing the finger and saying: ‘I don’t like it’, it’s not really my style. I know when something is not right for me so I get out, I’m not going to waste my time.”
But that is not to say that the coach will not leave Leeds and Britain with a heavy heart, especially with Hinchliffe believing that with the right investment even better things were to come at Tokyo 2020.
“I’m happy and sad at exactly the same time,” said Hinchliffe.
“I’m happy and excited about this new job in Australia and there’s not many British Diving coaches that have been recruited.
“Australia is a super-power in diving and has been and it’s such a flattering thing to be recruited by them.
“But I’m obviously sad that I am leaving family that I love, I am leaving athletes and the whole Leeds diving programme and also a city that has been really good for me. Getting on a plane and actually being away from it will be really sad.
“But I’ve got to be honest, my head is in Australia now. I’m excited about the new role and they have literally rolled the red carpet out for me.
“There’s nothing they won’t do for me at the moment which is quite flattering. It’s a bit of a dream job so I’m just excited to get started.”
The Ady Hincliffe story ...
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ely, Cambridgeshire.
DATE OF BIRTH: May 14, 1971.
HOME TOWN: Pudsey.
SECONDARY SCHOOL: St Aidan’s Church Of England High School, Harrogate.
UNIVERSITY: Leeds Met University (Carnegie). Now Leeds Beckett University.
CURRENT ROLE: Head diving coach at Leeds City Council. High Performance coach (consultant) for British Diving.
FUTURE ROLE: Head coach for Australia Diving (March 2017).
OLYMPIC LEEDS DIVERS: Sydney 2000 (Sally Freeman), Athens 2004 (Tandi Gerrard), Beijing 2008 (Tandi Gerrard and Becky Gallantree), London 2012 (Jack Laugher, Becky Gallantree, Sarah Barrow, Hannah Starling, Alicia Blagg), Rio 2016 (Jack Laugher, Chris Mears, Becky Gallantree, Alicia Blagg, Lois Toulson, Yona Knight-Wisdom - Jamaica).
OLYMPIC LEEDS MEDALS: Gold – Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, 3m synchro, Rio 2016. Silver – Jack Laugher, 3m springboard, Rio 2016.
FAMILY: Enagaged to former South African and GB diver Tandi Gerrard. Three-year-old twins Lydia and Lexie.