Wakefield-born Alicia Blagg returned to the Commonwealth Games to great success following her gold medal in Glasgow four years ago.
Blagg earned diving silver in the women’s synchronised 3m springboard to further increase Yorkshire’s impressive medal tally. Blagg’s success at the age of 21 is remarkable, with her medal collection far greater than that of many a seasoned pro’.
Blagg was hand picked for diving during her school years as she was seen by a Talent Identification Program. At the age of seven, her path to top-level diver had begun.
At 13, Blagg was already picking up wins at the highest level whilst becoming the youngest-ever double English National champion in diving, winning the 1m springboard and 3m synchronised events in 2010. Blagg was only a matter of weeks too old to claim Olympic star Tom Daley’s record of youngest-ever English National champion that Daley had collected in 2007.
It was no suprise when Blagg was selected to represent Great Britain in the 2012 London Olymic Games in the women’s synchronized 3m springboard. Working with the experienced Rebecca Gallantree, the pair recorded a respectable seventh-place finish on home soil, with an exceptional Chinese pair of He Zi and Wu Manxia taking home gold.
Blagg would bounce back with a medal in the 2013 European Diving Championships in Rostock. Bronze was the prize for her and Gallantree, who was again paired with the youngster. Only firm favourites, Italy and Ukraine, managed to surpass the pair, with an upset over the German hosts a fantastic achievement.
It would be in 2014 where Blagg’s crowning glory thus far would take place. Now a deadly duo from the diving board, Blagg and Gallantree deservedly snatched gold in Glasgow, scoring a remarkable 300.24 to pip favourites, Canada, who managed 295.65. The win was secured by the highest score of the tournament on their final dive, with the pair performing a forward three-and-a-half somersault to score 72.54.
Blagg told the BBC following her win: “I just can’t believe it. To do that dive and then see the scoreboard ranked first it was the best moment of my life. Just disbelief.” Gallantree added: “To do it in that situation, last dive, when it really mattered, and to do that to get the gold is just amazing.”
Harder times would come for Blagg following her success in 2014. Her and Gallantree were unable to build on their success at the 2014 Commonwealth Games as they finished a respectable but disapointing sixth at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. It was revealed that Blagg had a long-term wrist injury that had been hampering her performances for three years after fracturing it in 2013.
Blagg had already missed the 2015 British Championships with a finger injury, but her wrist appeared to be a more serious issue. Surgery followed the 2016 Olympics, which Blagg had struggled through thanks to the use of steroid injections. Further surgery was needed less than a year later on the same wrist, as frustration was understandably building for the young star - a product of the Leeds Diving Club.
Away from the pool meanwhile, Blagg had secured a scholarship at the University of Miami where she currently studies criminology, sharing her time between Yorkshire and Florida.
Blagg returned to form in January this year to claim the women’s 3m springboard title on the last day of the British Diving Championships 2018 in Plymouth. The individual prize was a reminder of supreme ability from a 3m sprinboard ahead of the recent Commonwealth Games.
Katherine Torrance was Blagg’s new team-mate going into the recent games, with the newly formed pair choosing to dive together following Gallantree’s retirement. In a sport where continuity is crucial, the pair risked just two weeks of training prior to the games, a decision that paid off. A 276.90 score on the Gold Coast was enough to secure a brilliant silver medal for the pair, in what was their first true test together. Following a difficult few years, Blagg was clearly elated to pick up yet another medal: “It’s kind of a bit surreal because we haven’t really trained together as I’m in Miami and Kat is in Leeds and we haven’t really been expecting anything.
“So, to come away with a silver medal is like ‘wow’. We’re really happy. We wanted to do well but we didn’t have the expectation so when you win a medal unexpectedly, it’s amazing. It’s been a tough few years with injuries and coming back. I’ll focus on the individual now but this is a great way to start the Games and it gives us some confidence going in to our individual events, so for us we are really happy.”
While success in the synchronised event was well earned, Blagg will be looking for improvement when diving on her own. Seventh in the 1m springboard and eighth in the 3m individual event was clearly not satisfactory for Blagg.
“I’m disappointed, really, really disappointed, because I know that I had a lot more in the tank and I know I can do a lot better than that,” she said. “I don’t know what happened. I know I could have dived a lot better but Kath was incredible and she really held her own. I’m really proud of her.”
Following her succesfull pairing with the even younger Torrance, who is still only 19, Blagg’s eyes will be focused on 2020’s Olympic Games. Tokyo will be hosting what promises to be a hotly contested competition. The aforementioned Wu Manxia will remain favourite for China, with the latter an eight-time world, and five-time Olympic Champion.
But Blagg will be hopeful her budding partnership with Torrance has the potential to earn her a first Olympic Medal.