This year’s Commonwealth Games proved profitable in more ways than one for Scottish diver James Heatly.The Edinburgh athlete returned home from the Gold Coast with a well-earned bronze medal but simply making the team brought its own reward – in the shape of a labradoodle named Baxter.
“I had been on to my parents for a while to get a dog, ever since before the Glasgow Commonwealths and it was a case of ‘if I qualify for the Commonwealths I can get one’. Then I didn’t get one. So it became ‘if I make a final, I can get one’. It just went on and on. Soon I had to get a medal at the Junior Europeans to get one and I still didn’t get one. I eventually got the dog last year, so perhaps that was qualifying for the Gold Coast which finally got me one. Or maybe that means I am due another one now!”
If Heatly were to add another European medal to his haul he may be able to apply more pressure, especially as his four-legged friend has proved a hit in helping him relax between events. “Besides diving, all I do is walk my dog!”
It is while he has been walking Baxter that he has been recognised, with strangers congratulating him on his Commonwealth success and he would love to add to that.
Having put off celebrating his bronze medal, the first won by a male Scottish diver since his own grandfather Peter secured a place on the podium more than 50 years ago, and placed his 21st birthday celebrations on hold until after this summer’s European Championships, Heatly’s focus is on more glory, this time in front of a home crowd.
“I’m really excited. It is going to be in my home country and home pool. You can’t get much better than that.”
The Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh is the venue for the diving, which kicks off on 8 August, and it has been a second home to Heatly for more than half of his life. He has dived there since his family migrated back to Scotland from America when he was 10.
Heatly has already experienced the buzz of elite level competition there, competing in the 2014 Games there. A debutant, the teenage Heatly finished ninth in the 1m board and eighth in the 3m board contests, but his aspirations have grown since then.
“It is always great to compete and you always have your team-mates and your family and friends who have come to watch but there is nothing better than a home crowd behind you and the Commonwealths here were just incredible. The Gold Coast was amazing but couldn’t quite match the roar in this building. Competing here always brings back good memories and the Europeans are going to be another big event and a big home crowd. For me, it really is home. It is not like competing somewhere else in Britain, this is my pool, I’m here every day so it is going to be really special.”
Bronze medallist in the 1m springboard final at the Commonwealth Games behind England’s Jack Laugher and Australia’s James Connor but ahead of the Jamaicans and Malaysians, he will face a different threat at the Euros as part of Team GB, whether competing in the same discipline or in the 3m event. He said: “You have got the Russians and the Ukrainians, so the quality will be similar and the number will be greater, because there are a lot more countries at the Europeans. We will see what happens because diving is a sport where anything can happen. My training is going really well. And I was really happy with the Gold Coast, so there is no reason why I shouldn’t be standing on that podium. I just want to land six dives to the best of my ability and see where that takes me.”