SEPTEMBER, 2021 Following an impressive Olympics debut in Tokyo where he placed 8th in the men’s 3-metre springboard final, New Zealand diver Anton Down-Jenkins hopes his performance has helped to raise the profile of diving amongst Kiwi kids and inspired them to give it a go.
At 10 years old, Anton went along to a ‘Have A Go’ day with Wellington Diving Club and hasn’t looked back since.
“My mum put my older sister and I into a have a go day at Kilbirnie Pool and after that were both invited to join a talent ID squad. By the time I was 14 I was in the Diving NZ National Squad and heading to the World Junior Championships in Russia,” said the 21-year-old. Diving has also allowed Anton to obtain a sports scholarship in the USA. He studies full-time at the University of North Carolina where he trains 25 hours per week and competes annually in around 15 events in America and abroad.
The diver has thrown his support behind an online advertising campaign from Diving New Zealand that features himself, fellow Olympian Lizzie Cui, and NZ Commonwealth Games diver Liam Stone, all of whom are keen to see the sport grow in New Zealand. The campaign encourages kids from ages 8-18 to register for a ‘Have A Go’ day with their local club and see where it takes them.
Lizzie Cui can attest that diving can take you far and wide, having travelled to competitions all over the world, including going to Rio in 2016 to compete in her first Olympics at just 19 years old. After spending the last five years studying and diving in the USA, Lizzie is delighted to have recently returned to New Zealand where she and her partner Ryan are looking forward to the arrival of their baby girl, due in a few months.
“It’s great that diving is continuing to grow and flourish in New Zealand and it’s an exciting time to be part of the sport. I started when I was nine and have had some incredible experiences travelling to international events including the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, as well as having the opportunity to study and live in Louisiana. I love this sport and really want to see more kids give it a go.”
Liam Stone, who is back training following an injury that unfortunately took him out of 2020 Olympic contention, concurs with Lizzie, having also lived, studied, and trained in the USA and travelled extensively with the sport. He also wants to emphasise diving’s other benefits including great friendships within both the New Zealand and international diving communities, and a resilient mindset to overcome the challenges diving presents.
“While you tend to compete as an individual in diving, or with one other person in synchro events, you know you are part of this big, close knit, community which includes your competitors - we all understand what it’s like up there on the boards and everyone supports each other.”
The 24-year-old, who is hoping to compete at his third Commonwealth Games next year, followed by the Paris Olympics in 2024, has also enjoyed coaching some of Auckland’s young divers.
“I have found it really rewarding to work with the kids that are coming through the ranks – it’s so exciting to see the talent we have in the pipeline and, given the depths of sporting ability New Zealand possesses, I feel like there is plenty more to be uncovered.”
Anton, who has the Paris Olympics in his sights, is hoping that he will be part of a New Zealand diving team in 2024 rather than flying solo as he did this year.
“Getting my first Olympics under my belt has been amazing and a dream come true. I’m super excited to keep training and see what I can do in Paris but I am even more excited at the potential of going to the Olympics with a team of other Kiwi divers alongside me, and to see New Zealand divers at all Olympic Games from now on.”
Anton was New Zealand’s first male diver to compete at the Olympics in 37 years following in the footsteps of Lizzie Cui, who broke a 24-year Olympic drought for New Zealand’s female divers when she went to Rio.
In encouraging people to have a go, Diving New Zealand is hoping to bolster the sport’s numbers in Aotearoa with the two-pronged objective of a steady stream of competitive athletes as well as more people taking it up recreationally to experience the pure enjoyment of being able to twist, flip and fly into the water – and learn how to do so safely.
Anyone that’s interested in trying diving can register for a ‘Have A Go’ day with their local club in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, or Dunedin via the clubs’ websites, the only prerequisite is to be confident in deep water.
Covid lockdowns mean waiting until the pools re-open, however keen would-be divers are being encouraged to register their interest now so that the clubs can bring them in for some fun on the boards when the time is right. And, while no experience is necessary to start diving, Diving New Zealand says that anyone with a background in gymnastics, parkour, cheerleading and hip-hop tends to find it easy to transition their talents to the diving boards.
About Diving New Zealand
Diving New Zealand (DNZ) was established in 2001 as the national body for diving in New Zealand to promote the sport of diving and support the country’s affiliated diving clubs. There are five active diving clubs in New Zealand with over 500 young and adult divers participating in classes, ranging from recreational to elite level. Diving is a growing sport in New Zealand – recent successes on the international stage have helped increase its popularity.
DNZ is a registered charity (CC42843) since 2008, and is affiliated to FINA, the international aquatics federation.
Media contact: Katrina Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org | 027 422 3422