Banks’ departure opened door for Rochas

The year of 2017 marked an end of an era at Plymouth Diving with a number of high-profile departures.

Andy Banks, the coach who led Tom Daley to a world title and Olympic bronze medal, left the UK and took up a role with Diving Australia.

Banks, who had coached in Britain for more than 30 years, became Australia’s Melbourne-based national coach.

Apart from Daley, Banks was also instrumental in the development of the likes of Tonia Couch, Sarah Barrow and Brooke Graddon as British Diving’s world-class performance coach.

An integral part of Team GB for the past three Olympic Games, Banks set up the UK’s first full-time professional diving programme in Bradford in 1988, before moving to Plymouth in 1992.

“I am so grateful to the city of Plymouth and other partners who have supported me for the last 25 years,” he said before he took up his new role Down Under.

Plymouth’s Daley was the first to leave his home city when he decided to move to London to continue his career which has gone from strength to strength.

The 23-year-old became 2017 World Diving champion (ten metre) in the summer for the second time with the performance seeing him being awarded ‘Best Male Diver 2017’ by aquatics world governing body FINA at its annual Aquatics Gala Soiree des Etoiles held in Sanya, China.

Barrow and Couch

Meanwhile, Olympian and former European champion Barrow ended her 16-year career at the club.

Barrow began studying for a masters degree in sports journalism and took an internship at a prestigious magazine company in London. But having fought through numerous injuries the Plymouth diver packed away her diving suit and moved to Dublin as a coach and diving programme manager at Ireland’s National Aquatic Centre.

The final member of the most successful quartet in British diving, Couch also put away her diving suit. The three-time Olympian, who was also a European gold medallist, quit the sport whilst at the top to take on a coaching role in her home town of Plymouth and is looking forward to identifying future talent and helping them on their diving journey.

On her retirement, Couch said: “I’ve had the most amazing 18 years, achieving more than I ever could have imagined. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a long career, doing something I loved every day.

“Although I’m sad to be hanging up my diving costume, I’m excited by the next chapter of my life as a diving coach at the Plymouth Life Centre, helping unearth and train the next generation of diving stars.”

Losing such incredible talent at Plymouth at almost the same time made appointing a new head coach one of the most difficult tasks Plymouth Diving has had to face. It was a tough process but Alexandre Rochas took up the role in November.

Rochas was the head coach at the National Elite Training Centre in Paris for five years. During that time he led France to fourth place in the men’s ten-metre platform at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Rochas has a number of talented young divers in his squad, not least 17-year-old Matthew Dixon who claimed bronze in the ten-metre platform event at the Grand Prix in Canada as well as winning the gold on the ten-metre synchro with Noah Williams.

He then went to take the gold medal in the boys’ ‘A’ ten-metre plat- form at the British Junior Elite Div- ing Championships in Plymouth.

Dixon had earlier become a World Junior bronze medallist and went on to win gold in the ten-metre plat- form at an International Youth Diving Meet.

Another teenager, Victoria Vincent, is a former European Junior champion and but for suffering injury problems, is still seen as a star of the future.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.