James Heatly beats hero Tom Daley for diving title

James Heatly at the Commonwealth Pool with teammate Grace Reid. Picture: Ian Rutherford
James Heatly at the Commonwealth Pool with teammate Grace Reid. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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It can be hard to make a splash in sport – especially when you are competing against one of your heroes, who also happens to be an Olympic medallist.

But diver James Heatly, 16, has been making waves after beating former world champion Tom Daley, pictured below, at his own game.

A member of Edinburgh Diving Club, James, from Balerno, competed in the three-metre synchronised springboard event at the Great Britain National Diving Cup on Friday alongside his sporting partner, Sam Thornton from Leeds.

Despite having only trained together three times, the duo beat fellow competitors, 19-year-old heartthrob Tom – who won bronze at London 2012 – and Daniel Goodfellow, 17.

And James then went on to enjoy even more success by winning the three-metre springboard diving event – earning enough qualifying points for a spot at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.

The George Watson’s College pupil is the grandson of Commonwealth champion diver Sir Peter Heatly, who was 24 when he competed in the three-metre springboard and 10m highboard diving at the 1948 Olympics.

James, who has been diving for six years, said: “I’m over the moon. The gold in the synchronised event was completely unexpected because we’re a very new pair and we had only trained together three times – it was an amazing result.

“With all that Tom has done for the sport, he’s certainly someone to idolise. But really, my hero is my grandfather, Peter – he recommended it and that’s why I took up diving.

“It’s a lot of hard work but it’s worth it.”

James trains six nights a week at the Royal Commonwealth Pool and undergoes strength and conditioning sessions at Heriot-Watt University throughout the week.

Coach of two years Jenny Leeming hailed her star pupil’s dedication to the sport. She said: “James has come on in leaps and bounds since I started working with him – he certainly showed how well he can dive and perform under pressure.

“We weren’t expecting a great result out of the synchronised springboard event so early on – we can’t say they trained hard to get there because that’s not what happened, James and Sam just came together naturally.

“Tom is a platform diver rather than a springboard diver, but regardless of that this result was entirely unexpected.

“He’s done the event before and he is Tom Daley – he’s got diving in his blood and it’s certainly not easy to beat him.”

James should now be set to compete for Scotland at Glasgow 2014 alongside fellow George Watson’s pupil, 17-year-old Grace Reid.

Dad Robert said: “James and Sam really dived well in the synchronised springboard event, but nobody expected the result – least of all James.

“But of course the biggest achievement was him reaching the qualifying score for the Commonwealth Games. We’re immensely proud of what he has achieved.”