THERE’S a slightly sheepish look as she apologises for the pun. “But I just took to it like a duck to water.” At four years old, first trying her hand at diving, Grace Reid was more like a duckling falling from a decent height and discovering the thrill of a safe landing.
There’s no disguising the hours of hard work that has gone into the discipline since then; the dedication that has already rewarded her with a Commonwealth Games place in 2010 and the anticipation of another at Glasgow 2014. But there is also no hiding the joy the Edinburgh Diving Club member derives from the sport which has somersaulted in the nation’s consciousness thanks to the feats and the fame of Tom Daley.
“I remember I was at the pool swimming with my mum when I saw someone doing it and thought it would be fun.
“I gave it a go and I was hooked. Back then I didn’t know if I was any good at it, I just knew I loved it. I still do. The training is hard but I love it.”
It’s not just the training, it’s the travelling, the representing her country, the tingle of excitement as competitions get under way. The 16-year-old has even learned to embrace the fear and the nerves, the feeling of isolation up on the board as she embarks on a dive, remembering the sense of satisfaction that cascades over her as the dive is completed with little splash but plenty impact.
In a sport which has seen her meet new people and new challenges, she also revels in the release it gives her from studying for four highers: “It’s not easy especially when you are training as much as I am,” she says. This week she heads to Gatineau, Quebec for the Canada Cup competition next weekend.
“It’s really hard to balance everything and prioritise. Sometimes I just have to stay up late and then that has a knock-on effect but you just have to get on with it.
“On an average day I train three hours in the evening and some early mornings and then on a Saturday we are usually here all day if we don’t have any competitions.
“But if school is really stressful then it’s great to come here and focus on something else.
“It makes me happy and if training doesn’t go so well then all the studying I need to do for school means I have to switch off and focus on something else so it helps having that separation in my life.”
But this is the kind of girl who accepts that every day is a school day. When she was selected for the Scottish team for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, she said her intention was to go out there and act like a sponge soaking up every last detail in the hope that it would aid her evolution as a diver and as a world class athlete. Just 14 at the time, she finished sixth.
“That year it all became more real for me. 2010 was a huge year for me and was a bit of a whirlwind.
“It all took me by surprise and when it was only once it was over I kind of just let out a deep breath and had time to think about it all. But since then it’s been back to the hard training.
“That’s the bit that people don’t see, the getting up early in the morning or missing parties to come into training or not being able to go out because you have to do some weights. It’s not what everyone would choose to do but when you go away with the team to Delhi and get to experience something like that, that’s what drives you on.
“Even before I competed in Delhi, when we were walking to the opening ceremony, I was taking lots of photos and I have a picture on my camera and, it’s just the way the light has caught it, but it looks blue and white. It reminds me that I was there, at just 14, representing my country. I couldn’t believe it. It was pretty cool.
“I was doing performances I had dreamed of and everything fell into place. It made me realise that I was doing something I really loved doing and at that moment I felt like what I really wanted to be doing was training. I just love it so much.”
That memory, along with recollections of standing on the 3m board as she mixed it with the Commonwealth’s best, stoke the fire within her.
A young lady who says she feeds off the tension of competition, she has maintained her progress, winning Individual silver at the European Juniors and Synchro gold at the World Juniors as well last year.
But the real breakthrough moment came earlier this year. With Tom Daley topping the billing at the British Gas Diving Championships in Plymouth, in February, taking the lead in the 3m Springboard event with her third of five dives and holding her nerve in the final two.
“Yeah, that was weird. Most of the big milestones or the big things that happen you don’t always see them coming and I went into that one just thinking ‘yeah, a PB would be nice’ but I did not go in thinking ‘OK, I need a national title now, it’s time for this’ so when it happened I was like ‘OK, this is weird’ but it was brilliant.”
Combine that with the launch of Team Scotland this week and Reid is enthusiasm personified. She just wants to steer clear of injury and keep working. Delhi was an education and one she wants to make the most of.
“I learned so much, what I did right and wrong, while I was there and leading up to it. There was so much to take away from it and Glasgow definitely feels like it’s getting much closer. The goals are becoming more short-term than long-term and there is a lot of excitement.”
Delhi gave her the platform but it’s on the springboard where she now intends to shine.