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Grassroots to glory - Dan Goodfellow

The bumpy journey to Tokyo...

Dan Goodfellow is a man on a mission in Tokyo, hellbent on becoming a history maker and etching his name forever into the Olympic records. A niggling injury and disappointing European Championship campaign have not curtailed the Leeds ace’s hopes of becoming just the fourth man to win Olympic synchro medals in both the platform and springboard in Tokyo.

Having claimed bronze alongside Tom Daley in the 10m platform event five years ago, the 24-year-old is bidding to join Russia’s Dmitri Sautin, Australia’s Robert Newbery, and Cao Yuan of China by adding 3m springboard success to his tally.  Goodfellow paired up with Rio gold medallist Jack Laugher in the wake of the 2016 Games but adapted to the lower height like a duck to water, soaring to World Championships silver in 2019. 

Victory in their first competition after coronavirus at the World Cup in Tokyo last month - which doubled up as an official test event for the Games - signalled their podium intentions, before a sixth-place finish at the Euros just days later thrust them firmly back down to earth.  A freak neck injury has further hampered Goodfellow’s Japan preparations, but he is confident with little over a month until the Olympics he and Laugher will be ready for a tilt at top spot. 

“Overall, I’m feeling good,” said Goodfellow, who is one of over 1,000 athletes to benefit from National Lottery funding, allowing him to train full time and access world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams.

"After a year of full-on training the World Cup went well and the Europeans not so much, but it was great to get back out there.  It was nice to see where we’re at and identify what we need to fine-tune before the Olympics. Jack and I have been struggling with different things, but we have got different strengths and that has allowed us to help each other.  I’ve been nursing a neck injury that has been aggravating me, but I’m being careful with it and fingers crossed it will be absolutely fine by the time the Olympics comes around.

" I think we’ve shown over the last couple of years that we’re good enough to be up there at the Olympics, and I’d be disappointed if we didn’t come away with a medal.  There are a lot of strong pairs in our event and at the end of the day anything can happen on any given day in diving, but we’re hopeful everything will come together when it matters most.” 

Goodfellow is fortunate to have girlfriend and former international diver Lydia Rosenthall in his corner – with the pair having known each other since they were eight years old. Lockdown has been lonely for many – especially international athletes who have been forced to train in isolation – but Goodfellow has used Lydia as not only as his sounding board but also his chief cheerleader and sympathiser.

Dan and his girlfriend Lydia

Life has not always been kind to Goodfellow – his father John was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the aged of 28 and died in 2006 aged 39 – and so for the City of Leeds diver, who resides in Cambridge, a strong support network has always been pivotal to his success. 

“I have known Dan for absolutely ages,” said Lydia. “I used to be a diver myself and so I think it helps Dan that he can speak to me when a training session or competition does not go well. It helps that I know all of the dives and understand what he is talking about and I am always there in his corner to help wherever I can. Sometimes I understand and know he wants to be left alone and other times when he needs an arm around the shoulder. I think it works nicely and I’m always here for Dan to help.”

Since focusing his full attention on the springboard three years ago, Goodfellow has found a new level of motivation that is fuelling his drive to combat any distractions that stand in the way of a second Olympic medal. 

“In relative terms I’ve not been doing the springboard for very long, so I feel like I’m learning and improving with every competition I take part in,” said Goodfellow the UK. “There’s a lot more focus on power and strength in your legs, so I’ve had to get used to a different type of training. But I have loved it so far and if anything, it is burst a new lease of life into my diving career. During lockdown and heading into summer there are days when you just want to watch the football and spend time with your friends, but I know what my end goal is and I’m determined to see it through. 

Goodfellow admits the fortunes of Team GB have transformed over the past two decades thanks to National Lottery funding, helping Britain become one of the best sporting nations in the world.

“The Olympics is what the whole squad have been working towards since Rio, and I’d love to be part of a strong team effort.” 

Success at the test event in Tokyo opened Goodfellow’s eyes to how the Olympics competition will run, but he admits he is still in the dark about certain aspects of the Games. 

He added: “I’ve got a good idea of how the transport’s going to work and how the venue’s going to work in terms of keeping the risk to a minimum, but I have no idea what the village is going to be like. I think there are about 5,000 athletes - maybe more - I haven’t heard anything about how they’re going to run it.  The pool is really nice though - I don’t think the diving is going to be an issue.”

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