Scottish Tokyo Olympics diving hopeful James Heatly says he’s excited to get back to competition and hopefully secure his place at next year’s rescheduled Games.
Heatly won this year’s British title in the 3m springboard and was poised to be named in the team for Japan when the Covid-19 crisis struck.
The 23-year-old has this week returned to training at Aberdeen Sports Village Aquatics Centre – which is the first facility in the UK to reopen its diving pool – and after “16 or 17 weeks out of the water” says he has put the frustration of his delayed dream behind him.
Heatly explained: “It feels so good to be back in the pool. The fact Edinburgh’s not open and Aberdeen opened their doors for us, and we’re not even from here, we’re grateful to them for that.
“Everything was going really well. I won nationals and I won my first international of the year – my first gold ever individually.
“We just had one more event before the team was selected. It is frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
“We’re all in the same boat and there’s no reason why I can’t do it again. I’m excited to go for it.
“It gives us another 12 months to get ready.”
On his prospects for Tokyo, should he maintain his pre-lockdown promise, Heatly admitted there was a “nice ring” to the idea of becoming Scotland’s first diving gold medallist.
A bronze in the 1m springboard at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in the 2018 made Heatly only the second Scot, after his grandfather Sir Peter Heatly, to medal at the event.
He also took bronze in the 3m springboard at last year’s European Championships, which brought his European bronze tally to three, with medals in previous editions of the event in the 1m and 3m synchro disciplines.
However, he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself for Tokyo, saying: “I like to look at things one event at a time and not get too far ahead of myself.
“It’s a case of just getting my name down on the team, because British diving has grown so much, especially on the men’s side. It’s sometimes harder to get on the team than it is to perform well at an event.
“If I’m on that team, I’d be aiming for the final. If I get into the final, you never know what could happen.”
The ongoing training camp at ASV – which has given restricted access to performance swimmers, as well divers in recent days – also includes talented Aberdeen 16-year-old Clara Kerr.
Scottish performance diving coach Jen Leeming, who is also normally based in Edinburgh, says the nation is on a “strong path” for success.
She said: “We were on a strong path with James especially, who was ranked British number one coming out of nationals in January.
“I think it was very hard for him to hear the news of the Olympics being postponed.
“It was tough, but knowing he was in that position before, why not again?
“We’ve remained on that path and would hope to be in that position next year.
“The reason Clara’s on this camp is because she’s showing progress for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
“You have to be over a certain level to be invited to this camp and she’s on that path, and still has a few years to improve.”