Diving coach Jen Leeming says being honoured at tonight’s annual sportscotland’s coaching, officiating and volunteering awards ceremony will cap off a truly memorable year.
The Edinburgh Diving Club mentor will receive the Performance Development Coach of the Year award at Glasgow’s City Chambers for her hard work over the past 12 months, the highlight being one of her divers, 20-year-old Grace Reid, reaching the finals of the 3 metre springboard at the Rio Olympics.
Leeming admits she was overwhelmed to watch Reid, who she has coached for the last 13 years, mix it up with some of the very best athletes in the world back in August.
“First and foremost it’s going to be a very special occasion this evening, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Leeming, who heads the diving programme at the Royal Commonwealth Pool.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. It has just been one of those years where I’ll look back and think ‘wow’. Getting this award is just the icing on the cake to what has been a pretty incredible year.
“It’s a long process to get these guys to be as good as they can be. It’s not just about me or them as there are a lot more people around them, so this award is a recognition of everyone else’s hard work.”
Leeming wasn’t in South America to share the Edinburgh University student’s first taste of the Olympics – limited coaching accreditation available to Team GB ended any hopes she had of attending. Nevertheless, she had no doubt the former George Watson’s pupil would do herself justice.
“I was absolutely over the moon with how Grace dived in Rio,” said Leeming, originally from Leeds. “She was capable of doing it herself so she didn’t need me there on the day. The hard work had been done. I left her in the middle of July and knew she was in a good place. But I was in regular contact with her when she was out in Rio and the feedback I was getting from the GB coaches out there was all really positive.
“She had the ‘I’m in the zone’ look when she was on the boards so I felt quite relaxed. I could see she was ready so I was delighted with how she progressed into the final. She held steady and that was testament to everything she had done as an individual and we as a team.
“I think she had about three weeks off after the Olympics, but when she came back she was like ‘I have never been so ready to start training again’. I think she’s more motivated now having experienced her first Games.”
Reid’s Scottish team-mate and 3m synchro partner James Heatly, who Leeming also coaches, fell agonisingly short in sealing his ticket to Brazil in the summer. But Leeming, 32, believes having had the experience of representing Scotland at the home Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years ago, both Reid and Heatly will be in a position to challenge for a medal in Gold Coast, Australia, in 2018.
“James was so close to qualifying this year, but we always knew it was a long shot because he’s still making that transition junior to senior level,” she said. “So, with another four years work ahead of him, I think he’ll be in a really good place to fight for a spot in Tokyo. But Grace and James have both got the Commonwealth Games to focus on and they certainly don’t want to just qualify this time around, they want to bring home some medals. They’re both really fired up for it as they loved every second of competing at the Games here two years ago.”
She continued: “They’re both great role models for our whole programme. I think since the redevelopment of the Commonwealth Pool in 2012 things have just gone from strength to strength. The club is now about 89 per cent full and we always used to be around the 70 per cent mark, so that’s down to the results we’ve been achieving.”