For five long days of competition in Birmingham, the best divers in England were almost untouchable. As the final Commonwealth Games medals were handed out, though, they allowed themselves just one atrocious dive each to close. Together, Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, Noah Williams, Kyle Kotari and Lois Toulson walked towards Sandwell Aquatics Centre’s diving pool where they expertly performed celebratory belly flops in unison.
They had much to celebrate. Moments earlier, the breakthrough Games of 17-year-old Spendolini-Sirieix had a perfect conclusion as she paired up with Williams to win her second gold medal in the mixed synchro. As she did in her individual exploits, they dominated the field, scoring 333.06 to win by 14.52 points ahead of Kotari and Toulson in an English one-two finish.
Spendolini-Siriex had already won gold in the women’s 10m platform and then silver in the synchro, bringing her medal haul to three. She has had ample attention on her within the diving community for some time, her talent well known, and here in her first major games she has flourished: “It’s been incredible.” she said. “I think we came in wanting to have fun and we definitely did. It’s a PB for us, synchro, actually. I’m just really pleased with how we executed our dives and our synchro.”
Alongside her, 22-year-old Williams has enjoyed a tremendous Games in his own right with two gold medals. Williams followed up a silver medal at the world championships alongside Matty Lee in the men’s 10m synchro two months ago by winning gold with Lee in the same event on Friday. Having missed out in synchro at the Olympics due to Great Britain’s supremely deep and competitive diving squad, Lee and Tom Daley winning an iconic gold medal, Williams has made the most of his opportunities in what has become one of the best seasons of his career.
This has been the best Games for England’s diving squad, which departed with 15 medals in total: six gold, four silver and five bronze. They even seized an entire podium for themselves, with Daniel Goodfellow, Jordan Houlden and Jack Laugher taking gold, silver and bronze in the men’s individual 3m springboard podium. It’s a reflection of the continued growth of the sport in Great Britain.
Earlier on Monday, there were further indications of Great Britain’s diving might as Scotland clinched their first diving medal of the competition, winning gold in the mixed synchro 3m springboard, with James Heatly and Grace Reid holding off Australia’s Li Shixin and Maddison Keeney by just two points to each become Commonwealth Champions.
As things stand, the mixed synchro is not an Olympic event, which Spendolini-Siriex and Williams say allowed them to relax and enjoy their final competitive moments of the Commonwealth Games slightly more. “I think because it’s not in the Olympics, some people take it less seriously. And it’s at the Commonwealth Games so it’s not that nobody will take it seriously here, but we’re able to have a bit more fun and enjoy ourselves more,” said Williams.
For the divers, there is no time to step back and appreciate the progress they have made in Birmingham. They will eventually take time off, enjoy their holiday and see out the summer, but there are more frontiers to conquer. The European Championships begin in Rome on Thursday, with Monday’s competitors getting only one day of rest before they build up to a major event again.
“Now we’ve got Europeans, so I’m going to focus on that. After that, I’m going to take a break, take my summer holiday and then come back stronger,” said Spendolini-Sirieix.
Earlier in the day, the England men’s hockey team won an excellent bronze medal in an intense, dynamic match, beating South Africa 6-3.
The action at the Commonwealth Games ended in the afternoon with final medals for England and Scotland in squash. Greg Lobban and Rory Stewart of Scotland outclassed Yow Eain Ng and Chee Wern Yuen of Malaysia to win the men’s doubles bronze medal. Then, in an all-England battle, James Willstrop and Declan James held off Adrian Waller and Daryl Selby 2-1 to win gold.