FACED with any sporting spectacular, the City Of Leeds Diving Club can usually be relied upon to be heavily involved.
Like the Rio 2016 Olympics for example; with half of the Great Britain diving squad also representing the city of Leeds including golden boy Jack Laugher.
Or the 2018 Commonwealth Games perhaps, where the club was responsible for seven of the 13 divers representing Team England, taking six medals back to Leeds.
Same again come this year’s Leeds Sports Awards – with a new era still producing the same brilliant results under a coach who says there is even more talent to come further down the ranks.
Joe Meszaros became the City Of Leeds Diving Club’s head coach last June – replacing Ady Hinchliffe who has moved Down Under to become Australia’s national diving coach.
Eight months on, the new Leeds chief will get his first taste of a rich Leeds sporting tradition at next month’s Leeds Sports Awards on February 28.
We are still quite a young team but it’s exciting that Leeds athletes are going to these major junior diving meets and really holding their own in there.Joe Meszaros
As ever, the club have chances to win several prizes with triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Laugher battling Sam Dickinson, Pablo Hernandez, Adil Rashid, Josh Warrington and Nile Wilson for the sportsman of the year award. Former Leeds diver Alicia Blagg who is now based in Miami is in the running for the sportswoman award but the Leeds club also has contenders for both the young sportsman and young sportswoman accolades.
Fresh from winning a silver medal at last year’s Youth Olympics, Anthony Harding is one of the finalists for the young male award while rising star Callie Eaglestone is also shortlisted for the female version.
Meszaros – who specialises in the development of young divers – also has his club nominated for the club/team performance of the year.
Finalists for five different awards in his first year at the helm and judging by the talent in the club’s junior ranks plenty more success to come.
“We are over the moon to have finalists for five different awards at the Leeds Sports Awards,” Meszaros told the YEP. “Last year was another superb year for our seniors led by Jack and we have had some terrific results with the juniors as well so everything is looking good for the future.
“We obviously had Anthony Harding’s silver Youth Olympics medal and Phoebe Banks also had a silver World Junior medal.
“Anthony also got a bronze medal on the 1m at the Junior European Championships as well and it’s encouraging to see athletes within our scheme not just going out to these junior internationals but actually medalling and impacting. That’s a really strong message to show where the scheme is at the minute.
“Another one standing out is Callie Eaglestone. We went to the Dresden Youth Diving Meet which is a massive event with basically all the nations coming to it – Australia, Japan, America, and she won her 3m, category.
“She is showing some great form and she finalled in both events at the Junior Europeans this year. We also had Oliver Crompton who took part in all of the junior GB diving meets this year and also represented at the Junior World Championships and Holly Waxman who actually came over from Bradford Esprit.
“I used to work with Holly over at Bradford and she has come to the Leeds Diving Programme and she has also had opportunities this year representing Great Britain on the junior circuit hitting those top 12s and making the finals at Junior Europeans. We are still quite a young team but it’s exciting that Leeds athletes are still being selected and are still going to these major junior diving meets and really holding their own in there.”
The club’s juniors will ultimately dream of emulating reigning 3m springboard Olympic champion Laugher who will spearhead the club’s assault on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
With Yona Knight-Wisdom also representing Jamaica, the City Of Leeds Diving Club took six divers to the Rio 2016 Olympics and Meszaros is hugely excited about his first approach to a Games as Leeds head coach.
“Going forward towards the Olympics, I can’t begin to imagine what that is like just looking at the experience that Ady has had,” said Meszaros. “The Olympics is the Olympics and obviously we have hopes and aspirations with what we can do there.
“We had a very, very successful Olympics with Rio, it was the only Olympics that we have ever had a champion in diving based from Great Britain.
“Taking someone like Jack Laugher – his profile is absolutely prolific in what he has done and with someone like Jack, he will go into the next Olympics more seasoned, more experienced, with more time on his shoulders.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for somebody like him to not just be the Olympic champion but really further pave his legacy in the sport.
“Being a couple of years out, it’s still very hard to say what the fixed picture is going to be but we work really hard at this end and we do what we can to put our athletes in with the best chance of being successful.”
Meszaros, meanwhile, is also working hard to find the Leeds Olympians of the future with the 26-year-old head coach and his team visiting local schools for talent spotting sessions.
Meszaros himself thrived as a junior before turning his attentions to coaching and nothing would give him more pleasure then seeing one of his own protégés at Leeds go on to take an Olympic medal.
“If that happened, I really couldn’t describe the feeling,” he said. “It would be really hard to put into words how you would feel but you would feel a sense of pride.
“There’s a lot of highs and lows that go to into it and lots of energy and passion from both parts – from athlete and coach. So I think when you do have those moments of medals and success and even selections, it just really strengthens that bond.
“I am just very lucky in being able to say I genuinely love what I do and that’s why all the long hours and the all the time away is worth it.
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have a passion and a love for it. That’s what fuels the drive to do what I do.”