Diving in to build on Olympic legacy with Leeds

Joe Meszaros readily admits he has 'big shoes to fill' at the City of Leeds Diving Club.

In charge: City Of Leeds Diving Club's new head coach Joe Meszaros. Picture: James Hardisty

In diving circles, his predecessor needs little introduction.

Ady Hinchliffe spent 23 years at the club and Meszaros was just two when the former graduated from Leeds Met University to become Leeds’s diving coach in 1994.

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Hinchliffe went on to take ten Leeds divers to five different Olympic Games via 15 qualifications, leading to the club’s first Games medals from Jack Laugher and Chris Mears at Rio 2016. The Leeds club were responsible for five of the 11-strong British team.

But the new man at the helm is confident of building on the legacy with Meszaros having been brought to the club by Hinchliffe and now out to unearth the club’s future Olympians, recruiting them from as young as six.

Hinchliffe left his position as Leeds City Council head diving coach and high performance coach (consultant) for British Diving in March, 2017 to relocate to Australia as the country’s new head diving coach.

The 47-year-old hoped British Diving would create a similar role for him, but his departure paved the way for one of his former pupils to step in.

It was Hinchliffe who took Halifax-born Meszaros from Bradford Esprit to City of Leeds – initially as an athlete, but with him quickly becoming a coach.

As head coach of Bradford Esprit following his own stint in Australia as National Elite Pathway coach, Meszaros was then recommended for the main role at Leeds by the outgoing Hinchliffe. Meszaros left Bradford to take the Leeds position earlier this year, vowing to continue Hinchliffe’s work while adding his own unique twist.

“It’s a really exciting venture for me,” said Meszaros.

“With Ady, they are big shoes to fill. But I’ve been quite close to Ady and under his wing for a certain amount of time. It’s a nice feeling to know that I can fill those shoes and feel that I am a part of Leeds. It’s nice to have that legacy continue with a lad that has come through the Leeds programme both as an athlete and as a coach.

“Leeds has a massive reputation as one of the best diving programmes in the country. It’s a good long-term project to really get my teeth into and put a bit of a personal imprint on to it – not just continue it, but take it to a higher level where it’s got my twists and my personality to it.

“It’s about building on it. I see myself as someone who can continue that momentum and I am definitely not fazed by it. I am motivated to carry it on and to work with the brilliant coaches that we have here to push that progression forwards.”

Meszaros was no stranger to success as a diver with the 10m platform specialist representing Great Britain at the China World University Games in 2011.

The former Wilsden Primary, Bingley Grammar and Craven College student also competed at the London 2012 Olympic trials and enjoyed successful synchro pairings with both Callum Johnstone and James Denny. Meszaros, though, knew his future would be in coaching.

“I could have gone on a lot longer with my diving career,” admitted Sutton-in-Craven-based Meszaros. “But I knew what I wanted to do long term. It was a case of do I stay doing this or invest my time and energy into something that is going to be more there for the long term?”

Meszaros has already overseen successful competitions, with Anthony Harding taking a Youth Olympics silver medal and Phoebe Banks a World Junior Championships silver.

Olympic champion Jack Laugher will lead the club’s assault towards Tokyo 2020 with Meszaros working alongside the club’s two High Performance coaches Adam Smallwood and Marc Holdsworth.

Meszaros, though, says a key part of his role will involve visiting the area’s primary schools in an attempt to discover the Olympians of the longer term.

The strategy was initially used by Hinchliffe and fellow coach Edwin Jongejans with Meszaros out to achieve the feat at an even earlier stage.

Meszaros reasoned: “Our junior talent is in a brilliant position. We have athletes in our training scheme that have places all the way through the talent pathway in British Diving, leading up to ‘team A’ with Jack Laugher. That’s a great achievement in itself.

“For me it’s more about growth and development and I really want to get stuck into the bottom end and do what Ady and Ed did all those years ago, which was to go and find these guys in schools and do some talent searching and bring them in that way.

“That process is actually getting earlier and earlier, slightly more similar to gymnastics, and we will probably be looking at identifying those between six and eight years old.

“Alicia Blagg, Hannah Starling and Yona Knight-Wisdom came through that testing programme of being found. Fast-forward a few years later and they are at the Olympic Games. That’s what I am really keen to do again.”