Diver Maggie Squire is gearing up for the Commonwealth Games. The 2017 AIMES Junior Excellence Award winner will compete in the one metre springboard and three metre mixed synchronised springboard events in Birmingham at the end of July. The Takapuna Grammar student found time during her busy schedule to share her excitement and discuss her journey into diving.
“To get the phone call that I had been selected to compete at the Commonwealth Games was surreal. I was blown away! I am so grateful for the opportunity to compete, so many people have given their support and time to get me here."
Year 12 student Maggie is a talented swimmer who moved into diving after an insightful conversation that would change the course of her career.
“My swimming coach, Jean Rheinfrank, was always so encouraging. She pointed out that my diving was pretty good and said I would make a good diver. That little comment sparked an idea and my grandparents enrolled me in a learn to dive program run by Auckland Diving at Glenfield pools - I was instantly hooked.
“That belief from my swimming coach and those small words of encouragement started the whole journey - she is certainly at the top of my thank you list!”
Maggie progressed quickly. From an initial weekly session, she was picked up by a talent identification programme based at Westwave in Henderson and began training three times a week. She now trains 5-6 days each week.
“As time moved on, I would stand poolside and train alongside the 'big divers' such as Liam Stone (former AIMES Award winner and Commonwealth Games diver) and Lizzie Cui (Olympic diver) as they headed off to their first Commonwealth Games and international competitions. I guess the belief came from there also, that I could do this and achieve these things with pretty 'basic backyard' facilities and big dreams. Watching their successes certainly drove me to put the work in.”
Learning to be more graceful in her diving, she admits is a constant work in progress and its work she has developed through a series of dedicated and knowledgeable coaches.
“All athletes will tell you - you don't get far without some pretty influential coaches,” she says. “My first coach said I looked like an orangutan when asked to perform a test of a series of forward rolls. She said, ‘that's great, but now can you make it look tidy!’ She wasn't wrong. She had seen some athletic ability, but little or no gracefulness! That’s still a work in progress.
“Next, along came Steve Gladding, ex British Olympic Coach, he has transformed the club, and we have so many more divers now. He made me believe anything was possible, even from our tiny corner of the world. Cordelia Norris (Performance Coach) is my current coach and came from an experienced diving background within the club and continues to push me and put up with me - I owe them so much.”
There is already plenty for Maggie to be proud of in her chosen sport; this year she won double gold at the national diving championships, making her the current Women's 1 and 3 metre New Zealand National Champion 2022 and she has qualified for three events at the 2022 FINA World Diving Championships.
At the age of just 13, she was selected to compete for New Zealand team in senior international competition in the Gold Coast and Malaysian Grand Prix event. She made a semi-final and final. “Competing against Commonwealth and Olympic medallists was an incredible buzz,” she says.
Like all of us, the past two years haven’t been without their challenges. For Maggie, this meant a prolonged period of time out of the pool.
“I had just come off the back of the Gold Coast and Malaysian Gran Prix events, two months later COVID hit New Zealand and the pools closed on and off for the next two years (more off than on!). There was no way to dive. We could train over zoom trying to keep our personal day to day conditioning going and live with the hope that it was all going to come back soon.
“Our training squad even resorted to diving off the Murrays Bay wharf when the tides allowed. It was hard to see the rest of the world competing. Being completely removed from that, the frustration was huge, but it was important to keep positive and believe things would return to normal.”
“In terms of diving, it was crushing, but I still had my schoolwork. I had been planning to finish school a year early to focus on diving and all the time at home made me more determined to do that.”
Maggie is on track to finish at Takapuna Grammar School this year to give diving her full focus. Next year, she hopes to start an engineering degree, either in New Zealand or overseas while continuing to compete.
Winning an AIMES Award gave Maggie a big boost. She says, “Diving is not a funded sport in New Zealand, but I have always been taught to find a way to make it work - like selling cakes on the weekends to help fund my first international competition in Australia at aged ten.
“Winning an AIMES Junior Excellence Award has been instrumental in my journey to the Commonwealth Games. The North Harbour Club was there in the beginning, when it was just a dream as an 11-year-old. Now at 16, I'm living the dream and loving every minute of it.”
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