Diving - Couch and Barrow keep national titles

European champions Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow beat their own British record as they defended their national titles on the opening day of the 2013 Diving Championships at Plymouth Life Centre.

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Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow of Britain (Reuters)

Competing in their first event of the season, the pair surpassed their previous best from last year’s Olympic trials as they scored 327.66 to take gold.

Couch and Barrow have been training together full-time in Plymouth since finishing fifth at last year’s Olympic Games.

And Barrow insisted her move to the south coast was already paying dividends on the pair’s three ‘optional’ dives.

“Since I moved to Plymouth and since the Olympics we’ve been focusing on our optionals,” said Barrow. “Being able to practice them together every day has definitely helped with them.

“It helped competing in our usual pool as well because we know where our spots are. When you go away, you’ve only been training at a pool for three or four days before an event.

“So, for me, I felt nervous but comfortable I knew where my dives were.”

City of Leeds duo Rebecca Gallantree and Jenny Cowen repeated their result from 2011 to claim silver on 304.14 while youngsters Georgia Ward (Crystal Palace) and Shanice Lobb (Plymouth) took bronze on 272.28.

Alicia Blagg also scored her highest score as she reclaimed the women’s 1m Springboard title, three years after lifting it for the first time as a 13-year old.

The City of Leeds diver scored 273.15 to finish ahead of City of Sheffield’s Clare Cryan (238.80) and Edinburgh’s Grace Reid (237.60).

“I’m really happy because I wasn’t expecting to score a new PB and a new British record,” said Blagg.

“I don’t watch the scores through the rounds but it felt like a consistent performance and felt a lot better than my prelims.

“That was more of a wake-up call for me really. It got me into the final then I spent this afternoon preparing for it.”

A former champion also took the honours in the men’s 1m Springboard as Southend’s Oliver Dingley retained his title from 2011.

The event was contested at last year’s British Gas Diving Championships which doubled up as Olympic Trials.

But Dingley proved he’s still the one to beat from the lowest springboard as he scored 385.30 to take gold.

And having beaten World Championships 3m finalist Jack Laugher (374.75) and Olympic 3m finalist Chris Mears (362.90) into second and third, Dingley admitted he was pleased to have maintained his focus throughout the final.

“I’m relieved,” said Dingley. “It was about keeping my cool and thankfully that paid off for me today so I’m really happy with that performance.

“I had Jack one side of me and Chris the other side of me – they’re both very good divers and I managed to keep my cool in that little group.

“I have a routine when I dive and that’s to stay away from looking at the leaderboard, it’s one dive at a time for me.

“It’s good momentum for me going into my 3m tomorrow which is my main event.”

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