On the eve of embarking on his Commonwealth Games debut, Team England diver Dan Goodfellow spoke to Sports Gazette about his experience at the Olympics in Brazil, and how he managed to succeed in the sport at such a young age.
Team England have a cherished history in diving at the Commonwealths, securing a total of 27 gold medals and most recently, finishing at the top of the medal table in Glasgow four years ago.
Goodfellow was set to compete for the first time at the Games in Scotland but unfortunately, he was forced to pull out of the competition due to injury.
Whilst many others would have struggled to bounce back from missing such a major event, Goodfellow managed to deliver on his Olympic Games debut in Rio in 2016, winning a bronze medal in the 10m Synchro with diving partner Tom Daley.
“We were expecting to win a medal because we’d medaled in every single competition that year, so to come away from Rio without a medal would’ve been heartbreaking,” he said.
“It was almost a relief when we won it because all that work we put in had paid off and at least we had something to show for that.
“To go there on my debut and come away with a medal, that’s not a thing a lot of people tend to do so obviously it was an amazing experience for me.”
Judging from the 21-year-old’s assessment of his first taste of the Olympics, it is clear that he has set his sights on a career glittered with success in the near-future.
“Rio was more the beginning rather than the end,” he explained.
“I know I can perform under pressure now on the biggest stage there is, and there’s no bigger pressure in diving than to be able to perform next to Tom at an Olympic Games.
“I’ve put in a performance, I’ve got an Olympic medal and that was my relief.
“It was another starting block for me to progress forward and try to get another Olympic medal looking onto the individual events maybe, springboard. It was just the start for me.”
Team GB enjoyed great success in Brazil two years ago, finishing second on the overall medal table with a total of 67 medals, including 27 golds – the nation’s best performance at the Olympics away from home soil.
Such an achievement can lead to outside distractions and attention from the general public, but Goodfellow reveals that he is solely concentrating on becoming a better athlete.
“It’s quite important not to change, because otherwise it starts to affect other stuff in the pool and out of the pool,” he acknowledged.
“But it’s not too crazy because I’m just always focused on my diving and as long as I’m always doing what I need to there, then stuff can happen outside.”
The word focused seems to be a recurring theme throughout the interview with Goodfellow, and it is no surprise given the fact that he has been involved in the sport from the age of eight.
After progressing through the ranks at his local Cambridge city centre, Goodfellow participated in his first international competition as a teenager, and he is convinced that gaining experience as a youngster has encouraged him to embrace pressure at the highest level.
“You’re put under a lot of pressure in sports like diving and gymnastics, especially from a young age,” he admitted.
“I was put onto our programme and funding system since I was 14 so there’s always pressure to do well because if you don’t put on good performances, then you know they’ll kick you off.
“It did help me with my first Games. It could’ve been a burden but it turned to be a big success.
“It’s just a bonus that we get funded to actually do what we enjoy. I think that’s the way it is for every sport though, if you don’t get the results then you get your funding cut, but we do it because we enjoy it.”
Goodfellow is also confident about the direction the sport is heading, and he believes that a whole new generation of youngsters are taking part, despite its limited media coverage.
“Diving is in a great place at the minute,” he stated.
“When it comes around to the Olympics, people love the diving and they love gymnastics. I think they were racking up figures of eight million people watching diving during the Olympics.
“When it’s shown, people do watch it and there’s more and more kids getting into diving each day.”
The kids will be encouraged to hear that a strict diet is not essential to become an Olympic medalist, as Goodfellow admitted that he enjoys “a couple of treats here and there.”
However, the road to success does consist of five-hour training sessions six-days a week from 8.30 in the morning, which include strength conditioning, weights, gymnastics and even trampolining.
When asked how he manages to stay motivated with such a heavy workload on a daily basis, Goodfellow delivered a wise and inspiring answer.
“You’ve got to have goals,” he explained.
“The main two things are that you’ve got to enjoy what you’re doing and you’ve got to have a goal for what you’re doing. I won an Olympic bronze but my motivation is to win another medal and to improve on that, explore different disciplines.
“You’ve always got to be working towards something and you’ve got to enjoy it. If you lack both or one of those things, that’s when you start to lose motivation.”
This mindset has helped steer Goodfellow to pick up a host of medals, which has included the gold in the 2013 European Junior Championships, silver in the 2016 European Championships and bronze at the 2016 World Cup.
Despite achieving so much at such a young age, he is also quick to point out the influence of his coach Marc Holdsworth, who works with him in Leeds.
“In a sport like diving, you do the dive but you don’t actually see the dive,” he said. “So, your coach is essential because a dive can feel one way, but it can look completely different to him.
“You have to put a lot of trust in your coach as he knows what he’s talking about, and it’s someone who can keep you in a bit in order as well, to keep you on top of things inside and outside the water.”
Diving partner Daley has also been a key figure in his career, and Goodfellow candidly spoke about the 23-year-old’s influence on himself and on the sport as a whole.
“Tom’s done a huge amount for the sport which has been great,” he said.
“I don’t think he’s always had the best relationships with previous partners but I think it helps that I’m a bit younger. He’s always had synchro partners who are a lot older than him.
“As someone who’s a similar age to him, we both enjoy the same things. The relationship is good, which makes it easier and more enjoyable to go away with someone. Having him there [In Rio] was really good for me. He let me know what to expect from my first ever games.
“I’m quite lazy and a bit unorganised sometimes but Tom keeps me in check. We just make sure that we look out for each other.”
When questioned on whether he felt pressured to step out of Daley’s shadow, he replied: “I think that could happen one day.
“Because of what he’s done and because he did it at such a young age, even after he goes, he will still be the poster boy for diving.
“But as long as I’m doing well for myself and performing the best I can, I’m not too bothered about what’s going outside of that.”
The English pairing brought home another bronze medal at the World Series in Beijing last month, and Goodfellow is confident that they can achieve even better on the Gold Coast.
“A success for me at the Games would 100% be a medal,” he said. “Hopefully if me and Tom dive the way we know we can dive, we’ll definitely come away with a gold. But, it’s diving so anything can happen.”
Although Goodfellow mentioned that issues with his back and triceps still remain an ongoing problem, he is determined to put in a performance at the Commonwealths after missing out four years ago. He also revealed that team ethic will be key to a successful Games.
“As soon as one person seems to be doing well and gets a medal, it seems to have a chain reaction,” he said.
“It shows in big multi-sports games like the Olympics so with Team England, I think that’s going to be a big part of these games and everyone else with thrive off everyone else doing well in other sports.
“We could easily top the medals table if we perform like I know we can.”
Photo Credit: © SWPix/British Swimming