Gomersal diving starlet Lois Toulson is setting her sights on Olympic Games glory after becoming a national champion at the age of just 15.
The Year 11 Whitcliffe Mount pupil is the latest gem to be unearthed at the all-conquering City Of Leeds Diving Club who believes the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will provide her optimum opportunity to shine
Lois won the national 10m platform title in February and followed up with a gold medal at the European Games and could yet board the plane for next year’s Olympics in South America.
Team GB can take a maximum of two divers to the Rio Olympics women’s 10m platform event and 26-year-old two-time Olympian Tonia Couch has already qualified for one spot.
The last chance to seal a second qualification place will arrive in February’s World Cup in Rio – an event the humble Toulson is not even sure she’ll be competing in.
Yet if next spring is anything like this year’s, the teenager might not only grace next February’s event in South America but also the year’s biggest stage of all a further six month’s down the line.
Toulson said: “The Olympics is the ultimate competition that’s against the best in the world and it only comes around every four years.
“2020 will definitely be more like my focus but then next year could also happen and that would be really good if it did – but any of them would be good.
“We have to qualify for the event and we have only got one spot at the moment which Tonia got at the world champs.
“At the start of next year at the World Cup it will be decided if we get another spot or not and two is the most you can get.
“Alexei Evangulov (British Diving’s performance director) was talking to me at the meeting we had a bit ago and I think he definitely wants to get Tonia to the Olympics though, because she really deserves it as well.
“It’s probably more towards Tonia but if there’s a second spot it’s probably a bit more open and I definitely would like to go because it would be amazing and a good experience.
“Tonia has been there a long time and she has got a lot of experience already and is probably the more reliable person to go. I do get very nervous before my competitions but I’ve got a routine that helps calm me down.
“And diving is like a young sport as well so you have to kind of get in while you’re young before you get too old.
“I’ve also been training for nine years so it’s quite a long time.”
Toulson was just seven when encountering her first diving board at Barnsley Metrodome and dad Richard – who runs the family garden tool wholesalers business Artel Ltd with wife Mandy – remembers the moment well.
The diver’s father says Lois, who then lived in Scholes, bravely headed to the end of the top board before chickening out and walking down the stairs again before having a second change of heart and jumping in.
All roads then led to the thriving City Of Leeds Diving Club and nine years later she is a national champion who proved capable of beating both Couch and former Leeds ace Sarah Barrow at February’s nationals.
The diver also won the 10m individual platform event at this summer’s European Games in Baku with February’s nationals proving an indication of what was to come.
Toulson added: “It was amazing and I wasn’t expecting it at all because I have always looked up at Tonia and Sarah because they are really good divers.
“Tonia and Sarah have been to so many different places and Tonia has been to two Olympics as well so it was amazing that I was able to dive against them and beat them as well.
“I definitely didn’t expect it at the start of the year and Baku was also a really good experience.
“It was the first competition I had done which was multi-sports with more like a Games-style feeling.
“Now I want to try and do more of the senior competitions instead of the junior ones and get more experience at them at the beginning of the year.
“There’s obviously the World Cup at the start of next year as well and depending on how I do at the nationals before then I might get to go there and dive against the best divers in the world so that will be good if I get to go there.”
Of that there is every chance with Toulson having already competed in Canada, Germany, Poland, Spain, Azerbaijan, Russia, Singapore and Malaysia, juggling around 20 hours a week of training with her GCSE studies at Whitcliffe Mount.
Toulson is also preparing for a winter training camp alongside five stellar divers from Leeds, with every one of them providing their own inspiration.
From a female perspective, at one end of the spectrum, 19-year-old Alica Blagg made her Olympics debut at the age of 15, while evergreen Becky Gallantree is eyeing her third games aged 31.
“I can’t imagine me being 30 and still diving,” laughs Toulson, who doesn’t turn 17 until next September.
“It seems like a long time away but Becky is still improving a lot as well even at her age which is amazing.
“She’s got a lot of experience and it’s really good when you get to talk to her.”