Langley divers take the plunge

Francois Barnard has plunged head, and sometimes feet, first into his new sport.

For FVDC members such as Barnard and 13-year-old Jessie Nowatny – who, on the one metre board, placed 15th in her age division at the junior development national championships held in Montreal in July – gymnastics proved to be a perfect platform for diving.

Both are former gymnasts, and the sports mirror each other in some ways.

A major difference is, the landing pad is chlorinated water instead of a soft mat.

“I had to go from gymnastics to diving, and diving attracted me in that it was a close skill set [to] gymnastics, and it looked very nice to watch,” Barnard said.

So far, this new endeavor has gone “very well,” he added: “I’ve improved a lot. I’m already diving five days a week. Every day, the little things, the basics, you just improve on them.”

Barnard hopes to one day compete in a high-level competition.

As for Nowatny, once she left gymnastics, she followed a friend into diving.

“I thought I’d try it,” Nowatny said.

Nowatny is aiming at making another national appearance and this time, finishing in the top 12 in her age division. But before then, Nowatny realizes that she has work to do.

“I have a couple of dives that I need to get before my first competitions that I need for nationals,” she said.

Helen Lingham is the president of the Fraser Valley squad, which includes head coach Kostya Karibyan and assistant coaches Kelly Dee, Kailee Lingham, and Luke Penner.

Lingham’s 17-year-old daughter Kailee competed four times at nationals, finishing fourth in 2010 and placing in the top 12 on both boards in 2011 and 2012. She is now diving at a more recreational level as well as coaching with the club.

“It’s an individual sport, so they are part of a team but they can progress at their own level,” Helen Lingham said. “So they can see their own progression; they can see how much better they do.”

In the formative stages, the emphasis isn’t so much on hard competition, but more on development.

“Sometimes divers… they just want to dive one day a week and have it as one of their extra sports, and that’s perfectly fine,” Lingham said.

“Other divers will slowly pick up more days until they are diving five days a week.”

Diving off a platform five metres above the water takes a modicum of fearlessness mixed in with a healthy dose of self-assurance.

But being “coach-able” is the real key to being a good diver, Lingham said.

“If you’re not coach-able, then you’re going to let your fears stop you, and if you’re coach-able you’re going to listen to the coach and go anyway,” Lingham said. “You’re never going to be fearless, we wouldn’t really want them to be.”

The sport is growing, thanks in large part to the exposure it received from the 2010 London Olympics.

“That was a huge boost for the diving clubs,” Lingham said. “Our club doubled at that stage and we’ve never looked back.”

With a little more than 60 divers, the FVDC is one of the largest clubs in the Lower Mainland, according to Lingham.

This Saturday, the FVDC is hosting its annual Candy Cane Invitational meet at Walnut Grove Pool. The competition will attract approximately 120 divers, including 55 members from the host club. Also competing are divers from Kamloops, iDive from Vancouver, White Rock, and the North Shore Dolphins.

Open to the public, the meet runs from early morning to about 6 p.m.

Lingham said Saturday’s meet will draw divers ranging in age from U9 – which includes divers anywhere from five- to- nine years of age – to 17-year-old competitors.

Each dive, the divers will be judged on their takeoff, their form, and the line of their entry into the water.

For the most part, the meet will feature tier two divers, who fit into the intermediate category.

However, Nowatny, who only took up diving about a year-and-a-half ago, is set to compete this weekend.

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