Darby Walker prepares to make a dive Tuesday at White Rapids diving practice at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. She and her teammates are approaching their first competition.

Darby Walker prepares to make a dive Tuesday at White Rapids diving practice at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. She and her teammates are approaching their first competition.

Athletes dive in headfirst

Nanaimo's summer swim club is hosting provincials this year, and wants to enter athletes in all disciplines, diving included.

The Nanaimo White Rapids diving club has athletes from diverse sports backgrounds. Swimmers, of course, and gymnasts, and even a freestyle skier.

Diving club member Darby Walker, for example, has been in gymnastics all her life.

“They learn tumbling, they learn somersaults and they learn flips. It’s a real natural progression to put that on the diving board and land in the water,” said Paul  Jantzen, White Rapids diving coach. “But you have to land on your head on the water. In gymnastics you pretty much always land on your feet, at least you’re supposed to.”

That’s one of the challenges, said Walker, of trying to adapt the skills she learned on the gym mats.

“All of the stuff that they taught me, and all the bad habits I had to break, I now have to break again,” she said.

But it’s coming along. Walker can nail a front layout full-twist dive, and she and her teammates will enter their first competition July 7 in Vancouver.

Jantzen said he won’t really know how the White Rapids divers stack up with divers from other clubs until he sees them in competition, but the Rapids are optimistic.

“It’s amazing to see what they’ve been able to accomplish in a really short period of time,” said Lynn Tissington, a club director.

Walker will be entered into swimming races as well as the diving. It’s two different competitive mindsets, which might be tough.

“I’m not sure, because we haven’t had to cross that barrier yet,” she said.

The diving club was formed in January for a specific reason. The Nanaimo White Rapids summer swim club is hosting provincials this year, and that competition includes diving, water polo and synchronized swimming in addition to the racing.

“The club wanted to be able to have representation from as many of the aquatic disciplines as we could get going,” Tissington said.

The B.C. Summer Swimming Association has rules about winter maintenance, and so divers were allowed a strict two hours per week during off-season. Once the White Rapids’ season started, the divers were able to ramp up their training.

“[We’re trying] to get them as far as we can, as fast as we can up to speed, basically,” said Jantzen.

There won’t be diving at the Nanaimo White Rapids Invitational meet Friday (June 29) through Sunday, partly because of scheduling challenges. (The meet is at Bowen Park’s Kin Pool, which doesn’t have a three-metre diving board.)

But come provincials, the club members look forward to stepping onto the diving board in front of friends, family and teammates at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, then diving in headfirst.

“It will be so much fun,” said Walker. “And getting a medal would just be the icing on the cake.”

sports@nanaimobulletin.com