A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 10 January 2018

Parkwood’s very own diving superstar Richelle Houlden rounded off an incredible 2017 by winning gold and silver medals at Montreal’s CAMO Invitational Diving Championships in December.

Teams from 11 different countries gathered at the international competition in Canada, where the English junior team finished with 10 medals. Richelle took home a gold medal in the 1m springboard and a silver in the 3m, winning the 1m event by more than 46 points with an impressive reverse one and a half somersault dive.

The Year 9 student has had quite the year, winning three gold medals at the prestigious Senet Diving Cup in Eindhoven back in February, collecting medals at the 2017 Mediterranean Cup and securing the title of British Elite Diving Champion in May.

No surprises then that in September 2017, Richelle attended a selection camp for the England Talent Programme. She was thrilled to be chosen for the national youth team, which meant a week training at an England camp in Plymouth before competing at the CAMO Invitational in Montreal.

“I was really happy when I found out that I’d be going to Canada. It’s a part of the world I’d never seen and I’m always wanting to explore different countries.”

Travel is one of Richelle’s favourite aspects of competing internationally. While in Montreal, she enjoyed seeing the sights in the city and even managed to squeeze in a trip to the zoo!  Richelle loves having the opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world, and was keen to pick up some Spanish and Japanese phrases from her fellow divers while she was in Canada.

Of course, being a diving champion involves plenty of hard work and commitment. Richelle trains six days a week for up to 25 hours, training more when she is preparing for a competition. She also attends boot camps, where divers from clubs across the country spend a week training from early in the morning, breaking for lunch and training again in the afternoon.

“It sounds like a lot but it’s just normal for me. When I’m at a boot camp, my body gets used to waking up early and training all day!”

Richelle has had an interest in diving from a young age and has always enjoyed both watching and participating in the sport. Her older brother Jordan is also a talented diver, and Richelle remembers tagging along to his training sessions when she was small.

“I used to watch my brother train and compete and just thought it looked really fun. So I started diving when I was about six  or seven, inspired by him.”

Family is incredibly important to Richelle, who counts her brother as one of her sporting heroes and her mum as the person who helps her to achieve her goals. The diving star also feels supported by her coach Tom and her teammates, as well as teachers and friends at her academy.

“Everyone at Parkwood is great. They’re flexible if I need to go away for a competition and happy for me when I do well.”

We have no doubt that Richelle will one day achieve her dream of competing at the Olympics. In the meantime she has this wonderful piece of advice for her fellow E-ACT pupils:

“Never give up. If something seems hard just keep trying because you’ll get there in the end.”

We couldn’t have put it better, Richelle!