Right now I am sat watching the new ITV show Splash!
The premise: 15 celebrities are taught to dive by Tom Daley (Olympic silver medallist), and then compete in a live show. 5 celebrities dive per show, and then there will be a semi-final and a final. I think, it hasn’t been very clear.
I was quite excited to see that they were introducing this show…and now I am so gutted because as far as I can see, the only redeeming feature is that the judging panel actually has two genuinely talented divers. One is Leon Taylor, who has competed in several Olympic competitions and was also a commentator at London 2012, and the other is Andy Banks, who was my diving coach when I was younger. He has decades of experience as a professional diver and as a coach. I love him 🙂
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I was a diver, before. I started when I was nine, when my mum signed my brother and I up for beginner’s course at the local pool. Plymouth has a proper competitive diving pool (they’ve recently redone it, and made a new Life Centre which is amazing) so we were quite fortunate to get the chance. We went for 2 hours a morning, five mornings a week over half term, and by the end of the week I had earned my Learner and Grade One badges and the coaches, Sam and Becky, had told my mum that I had potential and should take lessons. Lessons were every Saturday morning, for 2 hours, and a few months later I had Grades 2-5 and I was invited to join a Competition Squad. That’s when Andy took over. I was in Z squad (It went Z, C, B, A and A Masters who were the proper professionals) He called me Widget, because I was teeny tiny (I was only ten). I had training twice a week, for three hours at a time – 90 minutes diving, 90 minutes in the gym. It was pretty hardcore for a girl that hadn’t even started Secondary School yet!
Every few months, the Diving School would hold a competition for everyone that had lessons or was in training. They called them Development Competitions and it was designed to get everyone used to the idea of competing in front of a crowd, plus it was good publicity. In the second competition I did, I came third, and the one after that I came second. That’s the hench trophy I’m holding in the photo. The development competitions also involved several stunt routines, with the more experienced divers doing incredibly complex dives (from the top of a lader, balanced on the 10m, for example). It was incredible (and better than the stunt routine they just pulled off on Splash!)
As a squad, we would go to national competitions. We were still ‘novice’ divers, but there are annual competitions where you compete according to age group. I remember competing at Crystal Palace in London (we won), Southampton (we won) and at Poole in Dorset (we won). It was great, because the higher ranked divers competed too so you got to see what you were aspiring to be. I remember being at one of Tom Daley’s first competitions and knowing he would go far. Another small claim to fame that I have is that Tonia Couch, who is one of the top UK female divers, joined our squad in September 1999 and we trained together until I quit diving when I was 12. That girl had such talent, even then. I feel honoured that I knew her at the beginning!
I absolutely love diving, but I quit because I completely lost confidence in myself and my ability after having a nasty accident. I was doing a standard 1 1/2 forward somersault from the 3m springboard but I hadn’t checked the degree of spring on the board, and it went badly wrong. Andy said that I flew up to 5m, spinning, and came down with a proper wallop. I landed flat on the water and winded myself, and my back, arms and legs instantly came up in bruises. Let me tell you, when you’re tiny and bounce yourself through the air, and hit flat water at speed – it hurts a lot.
I’d had small accidents before, and been winded more times than I can remember, but after that accident, I was very scared of hurting myself again. I had very low self-esteem anyway because one of the girls on the squad was a bit of a bully, and I was having a lot of issues at school as well. I couldn’t seem to shake it off, and my mum realised that I wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I had before. We agreed that at the next big competiton – which was the one in Poole – if I placed in the bottom half of the results table, I would give it up. I came 11th out of 21 – exactly in the middle, but I decided that it was time to call it a day.
But anyway – back to Splash! I wouldn’t usually unleash half as much vitriole as I’m about to do here – but I feel that this show is a true let-down.
I’m disappointed for many reasons, but mainly because I really thought this would be a great showcase for the sport of Diving. People don’t realise how incredibly difficult, and dangerous, it can be. People have died through their dives going wrong. I wanted it to be like Strictly – where loads of people take up the sport because they suddenly realise how amazing it is.
All ITV1 have managed to do is take a genuine sport and turn it into a big joke. Tom Daley is an incredible diver (even though he does have the charisma of a boiled potato) and they haven’t showcased his ability at all. The show is 90 minutes long and each celebrity has only done 1 dive. If there was less faffing around, and fewer advert breaks, they could have done 3 dives each and we would actually have seen whether they’d developed any skill.
This is turning into a little bit of a rant… so now I’m just going to flat-out list the things that are wrong with Splash!
1) the audience. A bunch of screaming girls who seem more interested in screaming “Tom Tom Tom” rather than watching the diving
2) the celebrities. A Sugababe who can’t swim and an actor who almost drowned in the 2004 tsunami.
3) the presenters. Yes, Gabby Logan is a sports presenter but she doesn’t know anything about diving. Vernon Kay just doesn’t have a clue (and he looks daft in those shorts)
4) the swimwear, the jewellery and the make-up. No self-respecting female diver would ever consider wearing a bikini. Certainly not a sparkly gold bikini that barely covers her cleavage. Also, Jade had her belly-button pierced which is dangerous and if she’d done a better dive she could have ripped it out of of her stomach which would not have made for good television.
5) the adverts. I wish I still had the ability to record live TV because this show would have been condensed into about 30 minutes. On top of which, I don’t recall a single advert relating to any kind of sports or exercise, and the show is sponsored by Domino’s – for heaven’s sake, what happened to getting Britain active?!
6) the faffing around and the sparkle – diving is a spectacular sport. It doesn’t need the glitz and glammer. There is so much flouncing and time-wasting and not enough focus on the training or the dive.
7) Jo Brand. I usually love Jo Brand but she knows NOTHING about diving and she can’t comment on the technical aspects of the dives. She shouldn’t be a judge if all she has to contribute is silly, sarcastic and self-deprecating jokes about herself.
8) the filming. There were so many missed opportunities to get amazing shots, even if the dives they were filming were slightly naff. The cameras missed half of the stunt dive routine, and the cues were all wrong for shooting from the divers to the resenters to the judges. Shoddy quality filming makes the show seem like a cheap joke.
9) the scoring/splash off. As I said above, if they took out the faffing around and concentrated on the diving, there would have been time for each celebrity to do at least two (if not three) dives and they could have been scored properly. If it was my show, I’d have had them dive three times each, combine the scores and the two with the highest scores would go through.
And now, I have to finish this post because Splash! has finished and Take Me Out is on. I can’t find the remote and I want to scratch my eyes out already.