Olympic memories - Tracey Richardson
TRACEY Richardson was a proud member of the team which landed Britain’s first diving medal for 44 years in Athens.
The 29-year-old former Southend diver was there to see teammates Peter Waterfield and Leon Taylor take silver in the men’s high-board in front of a 6,200-capacity crowd at the Athens Olympic Sports Complex.
Waterfield and GB’s current Olympic poster boy Tom Daley will hope to go one better at London 2012.
But Richardson recalls just how special it was seeing the former triumph eight years ago.
“I just remember the atmosphere being so electric,” she said.
“There were so many British supporters there cheering them on, they made it feel like a home crowd.
“And when we knew they’d done enough for silver we just couldn’t have been been happier for them.
“It was so exciting and it was an important moment for our sport.”
Tracey competed in the women’s 3m springboard and says he’ll never forget stepping out to take her first dive.
She said: “I’ll always remember that at the other end of the pool there was a big screen that was zooming in on my face – it was really off-putting!
“And the first time I stepped out onto the board I remember just thinking that this was everything I had trained for.
“I had dreamt of making the Olympic team and I realised this was going to be the setting that I would remember for the rest of my life.”
Tracey came 28th and exited the competition in a preliminary round won by Loulia Pakhalina.
The Russian eventually took the bronze medal behind Chinese duo Wu Minxia (silver) and Guo Jingjing (gold).
“I was hoping to finish in the top 18 and that’s where I was after the first three rounds,” said Tracey.
“But my last two dives were not what I had hoped for and that meant I dropped down in the rankings.
“I was a bit disappointed with that but it was my first time at the Games and building up my experience was the main goal.”
Tracey says one of her fondest memories was a surprise lunch date with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
She said: “We had just returned from a training session at the pool to the Olympic village and went into the food hall to get some lunch.
“It was quite quiet because most of the GB athletes were training.
“And little did we know that Tony Blair was set to pop in.
“And we were even more shocked when he went to the buffet and then sat down with us to eat!
“He was a very nice man and very down to earth.
“He was so interested in our sport and our training, and he wished us all good luck in our events.”
At the time Tracey lived in Hornchurch and recalls driving to Southend six days a week to train at the former Warriors pool under the watchful eye of coach Bill Clark.
The 29-year-old now lives in Florida and works for a pharmaceutical company, but she says she’ll never forget her appearance at the Greatest Show on Earth.
She said: “I think my best memory has to be of the opening ceremony.
“We were placed in height order walking out into the stadium and I was in the front row!
“It was unforgettable to walk out into that noisy and massive arena.
“And when they announced ‘Great Britain’ I heard the crowd cheering and the saw flashing cameras from every angle.
“It was an incredible time for me and something I will never forget.”