World champion she may be, but Becky Gallantree’s hopes of another Olympics rest on one event next year. Lee Sobot reports.
AS a newly-crowned world champion, Olympic qualifier and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, to the naked eye Becky Gallantree looks to have enjoyed the perfect 12 months or so.
Yet it is actually mission un-accomplished for the 31-year-old for whom February’s Diving World Cup is D-Day, when she lines up alongside City of Leeds team-mate Alicia Blagg.
Indeed, the diver admits she would even consider swapping this summer’s world championships gold medal in the pairs event with Tom Daley for a pass to the Rio Olympics 3m synchro event alongside Blagg.
Blagg and Gallantree achieved their finest moment as a 3m synchro pairing at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, when securing a brilliant gold.
Yet the duo are yet to seal qualification for next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio and Gallantree knows the talented pair are running out of time – in more ways than one.
At just 19 years of age, Wakefield-born Blagg has her whole sporting future ahead of her but Gallantree will be 32 next summer and even the maturing new world champion knows next year’s Olympics will almost certainly be her last. Indeed, the Essex-born star had considered retiring after London 2012.
And while Gallantree has already qualified for Great Britain with a spot in the individual event, it is the 3m synchro with Blagg that is considered the diver’s main event and task closest to her heart. February’s World Cup, also in Rio, presents the last opportunity to qualify, meaning Gallantee has unfinished business heading into 2016 – even in spite of becoming world champion this summer alongside Daley in the new pairs event in Kazan.
“To be a world champion is pretty incredible really,” Gallantree told The Yorkshire Evening Post. “It’s something that I never thought would happen to me, I didn’t really think I was good enough to become world champion and then I was in the right place at the right time.
“I did my dives well at the right time, alongside Tom, which was great and it was absolutely incredible.
“But it was never really a priority because it’s a new event for the world championships and it’s not an Olympic event.
“So this year the main focus was on the Olympic events because at the world championships that was the first chance everyone had to qualify spots for the Olympics.
“I was really gutted that I didn’t dive so well in the synchro as that has been the main focus for me really since London. It is really heartbreaking to not perform well in the event that you have been putting so much in to.”
Blagg and Gallantree finished tenth, the same position which Gallantree filled in the individual event which was enough to qualify a spot for the nation at Rio 2016, for which Gallantree will now have to compete for. But as far as the 3m synchro event goes, February’s Diving World Cup is now last chance saloon.
Gallantree explained: “It was top three to qualify spots for synchro but we have got another opportunity to do that at the World Cup in February which is last chance for synchro and there is only eight spots available for the Olympics because it’s a straight final.
“And actually really this year there is only seven spots because the Brazilians automatically get a spot as the host nation and they wouldn’t normally be in the top eight in my event.
“So that’s four spots already taken and just four more spots available.
“Whoever comes in the top four behind the countries that have already qualified in February will qualify, something Alicia and I are more than capable of doing.”
It could be that Gallantree competes in two events next summer with the diver proud of her efforts in sealing Great Britain a ticket to the 3m individual event.
Gallantree will now battle it out with the likes of Katherine Torrance, Grace Reid and, ironically, Blagg to compete for a place but for now is merely thrilled to have done her bit.
The Leeds star reflected: “The individual event actually went really well for me and a great end to the event because that was on the last couple of days.
“I now have to battle it out with other divers in an Olympic trial closer to Rio to see who actually gets to take that spot but knowing that I have actually qualified that place for Great Britain is fantastic.”
And Gallantree also believes there is improvement in the locker as far as the 3m synchro event is concerned with the diver believing a relaxed frame of mind was the key to bagging gold alongside Daley in this summer’s new pairs event.
Few would be relaxed diving alongside the famous TV star and poster boy of British diving, but Gallantree looks at Daley in a different way to most.
Gallantree explained: “I don’t really see him as a big star because he’s just Tom to me and I’ve known him since he was a little kid.
“Now we travel together a lot and we train together a lot so I do know him really well.
“He’s a very dedicated athlete, he works really hard in training and it’s great to be around someone like that.
“He’s very professional when he is competing as well and it was great to compete with him and see how he is during competitions and how he gets all that success.
“It was good to be a little part of it.
“There was very little pressure really for the team event apart from the fact, obviously, that I was diving with Tom Daley!
“But we both really enjoyed it and it was a fun event for us.
“So my aim now is to go into the World Cup enjoying my diving and enjoying the synchro which I do.
“I really enjoy working with Alicia, we are a great team, we have been working together for a long time and we just need to enjoy these next few months diving together and that run up to the World Cup.”
Then, one month later, Gallantree will defend her crown as sportswoman of the year at the 2016 Leeds Sports Awards.
The diver said she was shocked to beat the likes of Nicola Adams in 2015 but given the year the diver has had since, it’s a fair bet she will be heading up to the main stage again.
Gallantree pondered: “I’ve never gone into any sports awards as reigning champion before so that will be quite a special one next year, I think.
“It’s a fantastic event, I really enjoy going and sport is such a big thing in Leeds so it means so much to me and to all of the other Leeds divers to even be nominated for an award.
“To win one last year was phenomenal but I know there’s a lot of other amazing athletes in the city and I know that Nicola Adams has had a pretty good year.
“There’s a lot of others and the triathletes have been doing really well as well so I’m sure there will be plenty of competition!”