Ten-year-old Nick De Martini is a young man on an Olympic mission. The school boy has gold medals in his eyes and hopes to one day join the ranks alongside his hero Tom Daly as a diver on the world stage.
When we meet him at DuDive diving club for a practise session, his enthusiasm is palpable, and he is scurrying up onto the trampoline faster than we can say ‘Tokyo’.
Each session begins with some dry strength and conditioning exercises, as well as some dry dives from the board onto crash mats and practise jumps atop a trampoline. “I like being part of a team, it’s good for my body and it’s fun,” smiles Nick, as he is fitted into a harness.
A few minutes later and he is somersaulting through the air with the grace and agility of a gymnast, in scenes which quite frankly give us motion sickness as we watch open-mouthed from below.
Putting him through his paces is coach Daniel Campbell, who has been teaching children as young as five how to dive for four years at the club in Hamdan Sports Complex. Over the last couple of years, the club has embarked on a talent-drive in the city’s schools and is growing at a faster speed than ever.
Currently the club has 220 children on the programme, with another 30 water babies having been recently invited with the intention of forming another squad.
“We go into schools and we pretty much run a big PE lesson where we do a rough assessment and try and see those that stand out during the activites and games,” says Daniel.“Then we invite the top ten or 15 percent up here and we do a two-hour intensive lesson and work through about 30 tests where they get scored and ranked on their ability. The top one percent then get invited in to form a squad.
“We look to see if they can jump and if they’re fast when they jump, if they are flexible, simple things like if they can touch their toes comfortably. A big part of it is just their ability to listen and pick up ideas because it’s quite a scary sport to do, so if they can’t listen, as soon as they get scared they’ve got no chance, they will just stand there and panic.”
Nick was one of the lucky few who were selected to be part of the DuDive family last year, and now he is fully committed to the sport, diving up to eight hours a week.
“Nick has been diving with us for about 12 months now,” says Daniel. “He’s the nicest kid and he works hard and he’s really keen. He’s definitely got something so it’s quite exciting to see how he will progress.”
After some pike jumps, forward rolls and headstands on solid ground – that leave us exhausted just watching – Nick does a few customary backflips from the springboard onto crashmats below, before we all head down to the diving pool for the main event.
Around 50 percent of each training session is spent in the water, and this is clearly the part that our budding superstar diver has been looking forward to.
Nick is all smiles as he leads us down to the pool and is up on the three-metre board in the blink of an eye. He is quite obviously fearless and happily teeters on the board edge as we chew our nails down to bloody stumps below.
His talent is only matched by his energy-levels, and the dizzying amount of dives that follow are an absolute spectacle.
DuDive are currently the only diving school in the UAE, and the only ex-pat diving school in the whole of the Middle East.
“We do a club comp twice a year and then we travel away to four competitions a year, usually in the UK but we’re going to Australia in March to do their nationals,” says Daniel.
“The goal of it all is to create future Olympians. We went to British nationals over summer and one of the kids got two golds and another got silver in their age group.”
This is music to Nick’s ears and the young athlete has his own sights set high. “I want to get onto a college diving team and get to the Olympics like Tom Daly,” he grins, before plummeting into the water with all of the spirit and flair of a champion. Watch this space, Tom...
www.dudive.com (055 645 8478).