Commonwealth Games: Grace Reid goes so close

Scotland's teenage diving star Grace Reid in action , where she had no idea she was in second place before her final dive in the one'metre springboard.  Picture: Jane Barlow
Scotland's teenage diving star Grace Reid in action , where she had no idea she was in second place before her final dive in the one'metre springboard. Picture: Jane Barlow
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IT MIGHT have been the splash heard all around the country. At 6.54pm Grace Reid stood on the end of the springboard. She was teetering on the brink. There was just one metre between her and the surface of the water below, a single dive between her and history.

On the sheets handed out to aid those who are not seasoned diving watchers, the manoeuvre that the 18 year-old was preparing to negotiate was a back one-and-a-half somersault in the pike position, with a degree of difficulty rated at 2.3.

Promisingly, it was, on paper at least, her easiest dive. But that meant fewer points were on offer. Crucially, its potential worth was negligible compared to her four other dives, such as the one that had catapulted her into third place, a forward one-and-a-half somersault with not one, but two twists. Her next dive saw her secure second place and, inside the venue, noise levels shot up a further notch as the prospect of a rare Scottish medal in diving became suddenly quite realistic.

Not that Reid knew she was on the brink of history. She stuck to her usual routine of listening to music between dives – Run the World by Beyonce, that’s a must,” she later revealed – and steadfastly refusing to look at the scoreboard. Had she looked up she would have seen what those in the Royal Commonwealth Pool, including First Minister Alex Salmond and former Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings, were gawping at, slightly disbelievingly. She was second, in silver medal position with just one dive left.

In many heads, one thought was beginning to form: my goodness (this is south Edinburgh, after all), Reid could become the first Scot in 56 years, since Sir Peter Heatly at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958, to win a diving medal. It was that historic. And what, in the meantime, could Grace hear inside her head? The echo of Beyonce, perhaps, and whatever song was playing before she removed her headphones and stepped on to the board for the final time. Remarkably, she had no idea she was so high up the leaderboard.

“I was in my own bubble,” she said. “I had my headphones up full blast, so I had no idea. Someone was telling me that I was up and down that leaderboard like a yo-yo.”

Was it cruel to inform her of the fact she was then lying in second place? Perhaps. “Great, I did not know this,” beamed Reid. Did she need to improve her tariff on that final dive, selecting a harder one so she has the chance to accrue more points? She scored 48.30 while her rivals opted to finish with their trickier dives, which are more rewarding in terms of points. Jennifer Abel, who won gold, scored 58.50. Not the highest of the round, but enough to take her over the line.

Maddison Keeney of Australia, who came second to earn bronze, finished with a forward two-and-a-half somersaults, with a twist, degree of difficulty 3.2, and scored the highest mark of the round with a 67.20. Her compatriot Esther Qin finished third, again with a strong last dive.

Perhaps more than is recognised by the non-experts, diving is tactical. Will Reid re-think her order of dives? “It is just the way my list works out – the last one is the easier dive but a more solid one so, when I was feeling a bit nervous, I kind of relaxed, whereas if I had something a bit harder it may not have gone so well and I would not have got such a good PB.”

Reid was far more mature about what had occurred than the rest of us who wanted to inject the evening with portentous overtones. Rather than reflecting on how close she was to a medal, she focused on the fact she earned a personal best, by some distance, of 269.40. “I came into this wanting to get a PB and I have surpassed that and got a blooming good PB. Knowing where I was on the leaderboard does not matter,” she said.

In any case, she has other worries. As well as a return to the pool for today’s qualifying for the women’s 3m springboard final, she has what are, for now, more important marks to consider, Highers results, which she is due to receive this coming Tuesday.