Why Jack Laugher, Leah Schlosshan and the City of Leeds aquatics clubs are blazing a trail
The swimming, diving and syncho clubs operating on behalf of Leeds City Council at the John Charles Aquatics Centre in Middleton, continue to go from strength to strength, as a report into their activities for the 2022-23 campaign reveal.
Athletes from the city and beyond have represented Great Britain and Ireland at the Aquatics World Championships in Japan, the European Games, European U/23 and Junior Championships, the European Youth Olympics and every British and English domestic competition throughout all of the programmes in the past 12 months.
Across the three sports, Leeds provides the most athletes to world class programmes for Great Britain and the England national performance and talent programmes than any other centre.
Richard Denigan, training scheme manager and head coach of the City of Leeds swim squad, said: “Just for swimming alone on England talent pathway, we provide the most athletes.
“We also have people on podium potential, while diving has a whole host of athletes on the talent pathway.”
Diving remains the standard bearer.
City of Leeds Diving Club has been producing Olympians at a consistent rate since before the Beijing Olympics of 2008.
It has been home to Harrogate’s Jack Laugher, who alongside Chris Mears became Great Britain’s first ever Olympic champions in 2016, since shortly before Beijing.
Laugher, who has an Olympic medal of every colour, has already qualified his spot for a fourth Olympics in Paris next summer, alongside Leeds club-mates Lois Toulson (10m synchro), Dan Goodfellow (3m) and Anthony Harding (3m synchro).
Bradford’s Leah Schlosshan is the leading light of Denigan’s swimming squad.
In 2023 she successfully defended her European Junior 200m individual medley title and is currently in an intense block of training as she bids to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
Teenage team-mates Hollie Wilson and Kourosh Khodakhah also represented the City of Leeds club at the European Youth Olympics in Maribor, Slovenia, earlier this summer.
Leeds’ synchronised swimming team helped Millie Costello and Isobel Davies qualify to represent Great Britain at both the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, and the European Games.
Scarlet Garland earned selection for Team GB at the Junior Europeans in Portugal while Madeleine Fish won two gold medals representing the England youth squad.
Why is Leeds so successful at producing high-end aquatic athletes?
"I would say the council values sport in a big way, the health and well-being aspect of it is very important,” explained Denigan.
“There’s a rich history as well. This is 60th anniversary of the swimming provision, diving has been on offer for around 25 years, while synchonised swimming is in its infancy.
“It shows the council values these schemes for the wellbeing and the success they can bring.
"From Learn to Swim all way through to the highest echelons of elite sport, the council invest time and implement structures into the pathway, and continue to reap the rewards.”