Aidan Heslop: Cliff diving champion, 15, targets Commonwealth Games spot

By James LawBBC Sport
Aidan Heslop
Aidan Heslop is too young to compete in Red Bull cliff diving events, which involve diving from as high as 27m

If you are asked to name a male diver from Plymouth who won international titles and medals in their teenage years, Tom Daley is likely to be the first name to spring to mind.

He won World Championship gold in 2009 at the age of 15, before going on to clinch European and Commonwealth titles, as well as an Olympic medal, all before he turned 20.

Many have since endured the pressure of being dubbed 'the new Daley', but on the same day he was crowned World champion for a second time, another 15-year-old from Plymouth was making his mark in a different kind of diving.

Aidan Heslop was below the age limit to enter the International Cliff Diving Championships in Switzerland, but was given special dispensation to compete - and triumphed from the dizzy height of 18.5m against his more experienced rivals.

Asked how his seniors would have felt seeing him beat them, Heslop told BBC Sport: "They see me every year, so they know what's coming.

"You're meant to be 16 to compete and the first year I came I was limited to diving from the lower side, but this was the first year I was allowed to compete from the high side."

Ending Wales' 20-year wait for a top diver?

Robert Morgan
Robert Morgan was a European silver medallist at the 1993 European Championships

Heslop has been cliff diving competitively since he was 12, but most of his training time goes towards the more conventional 10m platform events.

In June he won individual bronze at the European Junior Championships in Norway and the teenager is now targeting next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia, where he hopes to represent Wales.

"We have been in discussions. Ben Fox, the manager of Welsh diving, usually comes down to Plymouth once every month just to check up on me," he said.

"I'm quietly confident [of being picked]," added Essex-born Heslop, who qualifies for Wales through his mother. "There are a good four people who are ahead of me for England at the moment."

Four-time Olympian and 1990 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Robert Morgan was the last Welsh diver to compete at a major championships - almost 20 years ago.

While 3m and 10m diving feature in the Olympics, cliff diving does not, though there has been talk of adding the sport to the Games to entice a younger audience.

"I'd be very interested [in cliff diving at the Olympics]," said Heslop. "It hasn't been put in yet because of the lack of nationalities doing it.

"It works exactly the same [as platform diving], it's just much higher with more somersaults."

'You have to be scared'

Aidan Heslop
Cliff diving attracts large crowds, to often picturesque settings

Heslop does his cliff diving training at a quarry in Liskeard, which allows him to dive from as high as 24m.

His triumph in Switzerland came against 20 other competitors from nine countries - though the teenager still feels certain emotions before launching himself off the top.

"It's very dangerous, that's why they call it an extreme sport - but you have a boat nearby, scuba divers, and you have a certain skill level," he said.

"The smallest mistake can cost a lot really, so it needs to be very safe.

"There's a lot of adrenalin and you do have to be scared - if you're not, there's something wrong."

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