Haslam swapping springs for strings

1 Apr 2020

Just for now, Ross Haslam is getting used to spending more time with his fingers on a fretboard than with the familiar feeling of his feet on a springboard.

Like so many athletes across the UK and around the world at this moment, the Sheffield Diving man has been adapting to life away from his usual training spots in recent weeks, as people look to follow social distancing guidelines and limit the spread of coronavirus. 

For Ross, that means no gym or pool and plenty more time around his family home - and not just to train. 

So with more free time and a focus on the need to look after your mental health in these unprecedented times, what activity has the 22-year-old turned to to keep himself stimulated and busy? 

"Oh man, it's really hard isn't it? You forget how to spend time when you are so used to being busy!" he says.

"Personally, I have been trying to learn the guitar - but I'm horrendous at the moment!

"I got the guitar from my grandad ages ago, and I started trying to play it then, but that only lasted a few weeks. Then this time around, I've got one of those online tutorial programmes, so I thought I'd give it a go and see if I can get anywhere.

Ross Haslam
Ross Haslam

"It's just about doing random things to pass the time. In a way, it's good that people can spend time with their families when, especially in the sporting world, you are away so often.

"Actually having time to spend with your family and things like that is nice. Even things like getting your house organised, your finances organised, things like that that you keep putting off, now can be the time you can get them done, so hopefully when this is over and we are all back to training, everything is done and there is no worrying that needs to be happening for other things that need to get done at home." 

Not that Ross and his fellow divers are taking a break from training. 

As the two-time World Championships athlete explains, he is in daily contact with coach Tom Owens for relevant workouts, while also receiving fitness, strength and conditioning programmes from physios and support staff. 

Without the ability to get into the water or dry dive to practice specific dives and lists, the focus is on other aspects, such as speed. 

And when you add on top exercises that Ross is coming up with himself, it means the 22-year-old is sometimes left wondering whether he is actually stepping up his usual - eye-opening - workout schedule

"I have basically been doing a bit of my own stuff and then doing my set workouts from my coach and my physio workouts as well," he adds.

"So some days, I think I've actually done more than I normally would! When you are at home, there isn't much to do - so you may as well do what you can at home.

"There have been some days where I've been really sore afterwards and thought, 'maybe I shouldn't have done that much!'" 

(If you're missing live diving action, why not rewatch Ross in the Men's 3m Springboard final at January's British Diving Championships above?) 

Just over a month ago, Ross was part of a 16-strong British team that headed to Rostock in Germany for a FINA Grand Prix event. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has since led to the cancellation and postponement of countless sporting events, including in the world of diving. 

The Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, meanwhile, have been pushed back a year, with new dates confirmed earlier this week. 

In the world of sport, where training and competition schedules are often meticulously planned to allow an athlete to peak at a major meet, the current situation is a unique one. 

"It's a weird one, because you train for four years for that one competition or trial, whatever it is," he says.

"For me personally, I've been struggling with a shoulder injury. So I'm now working on my shoulder so that when we can, I can dive again.

"I think it's certainly hard for those people who are maybe retiring after the Olympics. I see posts from divers all around the world, and I know that they were planning on retiring after the Olympics. So I can see how that must be really hard, to have that plan and then have that almost taken away from you.

"But then equally, it's another year for people to train, so hopefully it means that the standard keeps increasing and you end up with an even better result at the Olympics."

Tokyo 2020
Tokyo 2020 will now take place in the summer of 2021

The Tokyo Olympics are now scheduled to begin on 23rd July 2021. It is sure to be an even more emotional spectacle than usual, with what is currently happening in the world. 

Like any athlete, Haslam will be doing everything he can to put himself in contention to compete at the biggest sporting event in the world, five years on from seeing Jack Laugher and Chris Mears become the first British Olympic champions in diving. 

And given the unprecedented circumstances of recent weeks, and the months ahead, Ross thinks next year's Games could prove to be a unique occasion, in terms of competition as well as spectacle. 

"Normally, it is all about training and peaking at the best possible time for the Olympics," he adds.

"But maybe this Olympics will now be a test of who can adapt best, and in a way, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because it's still a huge skill to have to be able to adapt and train in difference environments.

"So it might be a little bit different, the results might be a bit different - but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing."