LEEDS DIVER Lois Toulson is used to being the baby of the group.
At 16, Toulson was one of Team GB’s youngest athletes at Rio 2016 with the diver having the experienced Tonia Couch for guidance in the 10m synchro.
Two years on, at just 18, the newly crowned European champion is already relishing a new role as the wise head of a pairing with an even younger diver in Eden Cheng, declaring: “I’m the big one now. I’ve taking Eden under my wing.”
Toulson is evidently performing that role with aplomb as the City Of Leeds Diving Club ace and Crystal Palace star Cheng have this week returned from their sport’s European Championships in Glasgow where the duo claimed gold in the 10m synchro women’s platform event.
The Tuesday of the Glasgow competition developed into something of a perfect day for Toulson, whose boyfriend Jack Laugher also won the 1m springboard men’s final.
Toulson has often joked that her other half will always be the household name of the relationship and Laugher went on to win the 3m springboard event two days later before taking silver alongside Chris Mears in the 3m springboard men’s synchro.
The first aim is obviously to get to Tokyo and now it’s just about working hard and, hopefully, I will be at my second Olympics.Lois Toulson
Yet former Whitcliffe Mount pupil Toulson also continues to make giant strides herself.
She also finished fifth in the women’s 10m platform event as well as claiming a silver medal alongside Matty Lee in the mixed 10m platform.
Three events, three highly satisfactory conclusions leave Toulson hoping to compete in both the 10m platform and the 3m women’s synchro at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by which time she will be 20 and potentially stepping out at her second Games.
New synchro partner Cheng, on the other hand, will be just 17 by the time Tokyo comes knocking with Toulson already fulfilling a very different role to the one encountered with Couch.
“It’s definitely a lot different to when I was with Tonia!” said a smiling Toulson.
“I’m the big one now. I’ve taking Eden under my wing a little bit but it’s very exciting and she’s lovely.
“I am really enjoying training with her.
“It felt amazing to take the gold at the Europeans, I don’t think we were expecting to get a medal and it’s always good to get an unexpected medal.
“There is lots of potential within this partnership and we’re both very young so we’re both just excited to see where it can go.
“The partnership only started this year and we have only done three competitions together. I think there is a lot of potential there so that’s exciting.”
Rather like Cheng, Toulson burst onto the stage at a young age with the Huddersfield-born diver becoming a national champion at just 15.
Toulson is still in her teens but is already an Olympian and a three-time European champion, having taken two golds at last year’s event – in the 10m women’s platform event and also in the 10m synchro alongside Lee.
Toulson also bagged a bronze in the 10m at this year’s Commonwealth Games and a silver at last year’s World Championships alongside Lee in the mixed synchro.
Toulson is hoping to make further inroads as an individual diver in addition to further perfecting her synchro game with Cheng.
“It’s all been pretty amazing but I suppose I am just doing what I love and that is managing to get me all around the world and at some pretty crazy competitions,” beamed Toulson.
“But I am just enjoying it.
“I would definitely see myself as an individual diver now, too.
“I think every time I compete as an individual it always makes me feel more confident.
“After having had these years with Tonia in the synchro, when I do a competition as an individual and it goes well it feels pretty good.
“Having now been to one Olympics, I definitely feel like it makes me a bit more confident in myself.
“I know what it’s all about and I know what to expect.
“The first aim is obviously to get to Tokyo and now it’s just about working hard and, hopefully, I will be at my second Olympics.”
Given her tender years, it is not inconceivable that Toulson could go on to compete at three or four Olympics and the diver could have a shot at three medals if sticking around for Paris 2024 if the mixed synchro event is introduced.
“That’s six years away so that’s crazy to even think what I will be doing then,” pondered Toulson.
“But I definitely hope for the future of diving that it’s in (the mixed event) because I think it’s an exciting event.
“I am just kind of taking it as it comes because with diving it’s a sport where anything can happen.
“But I would definitely like to see myself doing it for the foreseeable future.”
One step or one dive at a time, both for Toulson and boyfriend Laugher, who can now look forward to some down time with the season finished.
Plenty of time for walks with Toulson’s new pet dog Jack Russell called Stanley, who the diver admits her other half is besotted with.
The duo have certainly had a busy year and not just in the pool.
The glamorous young celebrity diving couple also had the time to take up an invitation to sit in the Royal Box at this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships which came on the back of success for both at this year’s Commonwealth Games where Laugher captured three gold medals.
Toulson continued: “Obviously with the sport that we do, especially Jack, he gets invited to incredible events and I was pretty amazed that we got to go Wimbledon in the Royal Box.
“It was amazing, really cool.
“Going into the Commies I knew obviously he could do amazingly well but coming away with three golds was what he was hoping for.
“He definitely knew that he could do it so he was super pleased. If he’s happy, I’m happy, too.”