GREAT Britain diving team leader Alexei Evangulov has described Plymouth’s Sarah Barrow as a ‘hero’ for the way she fought to secure her Olympic Games place.
Barrow was named in the 11-strong British diving squad for Rio on Friday, along with Plymouth Diving team-mates Tonia Couch and Dan Goodfellow and Plymouth-born Tom Daley.
Barrow’s hopes of competing at a second Olympic Games looked in jeopardy after she was replaced in the synchro team by Leeds teenager Lois Toulson and was then left out of the GB squad totally for the European Championships.
But the 27-year-old former European champion made sure Evangulov had to select her for Rio by winning the individual 10m platform event at the British Championships in style, surpassing all the minimum points criteria.
“She is a hero actually,” said Evangulov, when asked if he had been impressed with Barrow’s determination to make the squad.
“She struggled with injury for about two years and kept working hard, doing all the medical programmes we imposed on her and finally she won her spot on the Olympic team absolutely without any doubt.
“She was really good at the nationals. She won the competition, made all the standards and she was in very good shape.
“I hope the rest of the time during preparation (for the Olympics) she will be okay. She is a really good diver.”
Evangulov admitted it was tough for Barrow to lose her synchro spot alongside Couch after so many years.
“It was hard for her, but she understood and we talked to her,” said Evangulov.
“I said to her ‘Sarah if you want to make the Olympic team you have to win the individual competition’ and she did.
“I said to her ‘if you just take second place don’t count on my discretion. You have to count only on yourself and win’, which she did.”
Barrow, who had struggled with shin problems for two years, is delighted to be off to her second Olympic Games.
She competed in the synchro event with Couch in London, but not the individual. In Rio it will be the other way around.
“Obviously, I’m happy,” said Barrow.
“I had a few tough months, especially when everyone was getting picked for the European team and I wasn’t on it. Also getting taken off the synchro team, then getting put back on it only then to be taken off again.
“But I made the decision to go up to Leeds to see (physios) Ali Rose and Lucy Gledhill. I stayed up in Leeds for a good three weeks. I stayed with Becky Gallentree and all the Leeds team were really supportive. They saw how hard I worked each day.
“If I hadn’t gone up there, I don’t think I would have made the Olympic team, especially as Andy (Banks) was not down here (in Plymouth) as he was off at the World Series and Europeans. I was really grateful to Leeds Diving.
“If I hadn’t seen those physios and got that belief they gave me that my legs would get better, then there would be no chance I would be here celebrating going to the Games.”
Barrow went into the British Championships earlier this month knowing it was last chance saloon and that she had to win to secure her place at Rio.
“There was loads of pressure, but I thrive on that, to be fair – I always have,” said Barrow. “The more pressure the better.
“I had one job to do. I knew six weeks out what I had to do. It was just about planning for that one day.
“At the end of the day, it was just down to belief.”
Barrow has proved that when she is fully fit she can compete with the best, winning the 2012 European Championships and finishing fourth at the 2013 World Championships.
On what her target it is in Rio, Barrow, who has been thrilled with the support she has received, said: “You never know now that I am there. You have to be in it to win it. My aim is an Olympic final, that would be brilliant, and once you are in the final anything can happen.”