Leeds Diving Club ace Anthony Harding has Tokyo 2020 in his sights

Anthony Harding training at the John Charles Centre.
Anthony Harding training at the John Charles Centre.
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Up early for school in Manchester followed by the commute to Leeds at three.

Back across the Pennines and home for seven, if you’re lucky. And repeat.

Anthony Harding. Picture: James Hardisty.

Anthony Harding. Picture: James Hardisty.

Diving success came at a price for Anthony Harding upon joining the City of Leeds Diving Club whilst still living in Ashton-under-Lyne at just 10 years old.

Eight years later, the teen’s biggest success yet involved a much more arduous expedition than navigating the M62 with Harding taking a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A medal that can be stored in his proud new Leeds home with ambitious Harding having relocated to the city without his parents at just 16 years of age and now proving one of his club’s brightest young sparks.

Harding is thriving both in a sporting and educational sense with the 18-year-old studying electric engineering at Leeds City College with a view to being self employed in the field upon passing his exams.

I am focusing on learning new dives and bigger dives for next season and for the senior list and then getting them good enough for 2020 to hopefully qualify.

Anthony Harding

But passing the toughest tests that diving has to offer remains Harding’s primary goal, an objective that has been illustrated by making two huge sacrifices at first 10 and then at 16 years of age.

The Manchester-to-Leeds commute became a daily chore for six years after Harding joined the sport’s High Performance Centre (HPC) in Leeds, relying on lifts from window cleaner dad Paul and teacher mum Louise.

Determined to make life easier upon finishing his GCSEs, Harding opted to move to Leeds permanently without his parents and younger sister, Anna, as he lived with the family of fellow Leeds diver Aston Queeley who is now a coach at the City of Leeds Diving Club.

Now 18, Harding recently moved into his own first house in Morley with the teen making quick progress on every front with the move to the city showing every sign of being justified following his Youth Olympics 3m springboard silver medal.

Anthony Harding trains at the John Charles Centre.

Anthony Harding trains at the John Charles Centre.

Harding told the YEP: “I have been with the City of Leeds Diving Club for eight years now. I moved there when I was 10 and my parents mostly made the decision.

“It was the HPC at the time and it’s still one of the best clubs in Britain so for my progression and my future to be better it had to be a choice that I had to make and a commitment that had to be done because Manchester just didn’t have the facilities and the coaches like Leeds, so it was a good choice.

“It was very difficult because I was doing high school in the morning, finishing around three, getting over here for four, training four til six, finishing at six, going back and getting home for maybe seven and sometimes if there was traffic eight. They were long days and you had to get up the next day and do the same so it was very tricky and very hard to do both all day.

“I wanted to put less pressure on myself travelling and I knew college was going to be a little bit easier with less time in college than school so I said to my parents can this work and they said we can work it out. I was 16 and living with another family at the start – the family of another diver – but now I’m in my own house.

Jack Laugher.

Jack Laugher.

“It’s been a big step but I want to do this step and progress and focus on my diving. I don’t want to go back to Manchester so, for me, it’s the right choice.”

That choice has now led to the highlight of Harding’s young career so far with the diver one of Great Britain’s main success stories of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and part of a double triumph for the city of Leeds whose Hunslet Club star Hope Price also won a boxing gold. Better still for Harding, he was followed all the way to Argentina by his parents.

“That was their first competition being out there,” said Harding, who took his A-levels at Elliot Hudson College.

“They don’t normally come to my competitions but they realised this was quite a big competition so they took the time and effort to come out and support because they knew that not many GB people would be out there, so they thought they would come out and support me and they did a great job, and I succeeded so they were happy as well.

“I was ranked third going into the Games from qualification but I had a new dive and my coach just said we will just work on the new dive and see how that goes.

“But everything went well and I came away with a medal so I was really chuffed. It was not really what I was expecting and I was over the moon with where I came.”

The event also marked Harding’s last competition as a ‘youth’ but he’s not planning on hanging around in making quick progress in ‘open age’ with the Leeds teenager now targeting a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and taking inspiration from Olympic gold medallist club-mate Jack Laugher, who competes in the same event.

Harding pondered: “I am focusing on learning new dives and bigger dives for next season and for the senior list and then getting them good enough for 2020 to hopefully qualify.

“I’d say my chances aren’t slim but they aren’t ridiculously high or guaranteed so I’d say I am in with the mix of qualifying but it all depends on the day of the qualification. Hopefully qualification is a possibility.

“Next year I am looking to the senior Europeans in August but my main focus is getting the newer dives and the bigger dives right so that for that Olympic year they are good.

“There’s also college but diving is the idea for me though if I pass this course I can do self-employed electric engineering so I can do that alongside my diving. If I wasn’t doing so well I still want to try my best and if I don’t get to 2020 then eventually I want to go to 2024 and 2028.”

Hailing the influence of golden boy Laugher, Harding said: “Jack and I train quite close together so I get a lot of tips and he helps me out a lot whilst training and giving me advice before I go into a competition.

“He says to just enjoy it and with him being one of the best, hopefully training alongside him will make me better in the future. He’s a brilliant role model. You can’t ask for much better.

“He’s given me a lot of advice over the years and he’s helped me quite a lot and he has got me to where I need to be.

“And I am hopefully improving alongside him doing the same dives.

“I can get a lot of advice and tips from him.

“Hopefully, I will be able to be just as good as him in the future.”