Leeds diver Matty Lee finds incentive from past setbacks
Matty Lee is a diver with a point to prove.
Injured on the eve of his Commonwealth Games debut four years ago, and overlooked for Olympic selection two years later, the 19-year-old from Leeds would be forgiven for having a chip on his shoulder.
Entering a season in which he hopes to belatedly make his Commonwealth debut before bidding for gold at the European Championships, Lee has learned to use those disappointments as a motivation, while not allowing them to define him.
He learnt that last year in Kiev, when he showed how much promise he does have when fit and selected, by winning a bronze medal in the individual 10m platform event at the European Championships.
“I remember in Kiev I was enjoying it a bit too much,” says Lee. “I was diving really well in the prelims and all of a sudden the lid came off, and it went downhill quickly from prelims to semi-finals.
“I was lucky to still make it through to the final, but I learnt a lot that day.
“You do have to be careful with that, you have to keep a lid on your emotions and be humble.”
For someone still so young he has had to go on a steep learning curve emotionally.
Four years ago, after being selected to represent Team England at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 15-year-old got as far as the ‘kitting out’ process before it was detected that he and synchro partner Daniel Goodfellow were suffering with the same elbow injury and had to be withdrawn.
Two years later, he watched as his City of Leeds Diving Club team-mates went to Rio to live the Olympic experience and make a name for themselves; Jack Laugher and Chris Mears coming back to the John Charles Aquatics Centre with three medals between them.
“It was difficult at the time, I was excited for my team-mates but also envious that they were going,” he says.
“I think it incentivised me. I came home and had a good think about it, what I wanted to achieve. I came back and 2017 was really good.”
Indeed it was with the European bronze the individual highlight, along with a world championship silver in the non-Olympic 10m mixed synchro with Lois Toulson.
“Coming third in Kiev against some really good divers was great. There was room for improvement, but I was still very happy with my performance,” he adds. “Going in to 2018 I feel as if I’m maturer in the sport and I’m just excited to see where I can go.”
That begins this weekend at the British Diving Championships in Plymouth, a three-day event which doubles up as the final Commonwealth Games trial.
“What happened four years ago before Glasgow is an incentive,” reflects Lee, who will compete in the individual and synchro events in Plymouth. That gives me a kick up the backside. I still feel I’m someone with a point to prove.
“I know I’ve got a lot to show, and I haven’t exactly shown everyone what I can do yet.”