PLYMOUTH diver Matthew Dixon is hoping to put a frustrating couple of years behind him and really make his mark in 2022.
At the start of 2020, the European and Commonwealth Games medallist was in the best form of his life and won the British Championship with a personal best score of 503.85 points. At that stage his eyes were firmly set on making his Olympic debut at that summer’s Games in Tokyo.
But then Covid hit and the Olympics were postponed. On top of that, the Life Centre’s diving pool had to close for major repair work, leaving Dixon with nowhere to train.
He moved to London, joining up with fellow Plymouth diver Tom Daley, but he narrowly missed out on a place in the Great Britain team for the rearranged Olympics in Tokyo in 2021.
But he showed he is back in form last weekend while competing for Great Britain at the Futures Cup international in his hometown of Plymouth. And he is now looking to try and secure his place at this year’s World Championships and also the Commonwealth Games.
“It has been a tough couple of years with Covid and everything,” admitted Dixon.
“I have moved to London, which is completely different to down here, but I am loving it up there. I’m training really well. It is hard work, but everything seems to be paying off as I’m still getting good scores.”
Dixon admitted missing out on the Olympics Games was tough to take, especially having been in such good form going into 2020.
“I was prepping so hard for 2020 and trying to get that Tokyo spot and after getting 500 (points) at the British Champs I was ready for the World Cup to try and show my quality on the world stage and to try and get that Olympic spot,” he said.
“I did end up doing the World Cup the year after in 2021 and still did really well and got a sixth place, but I unfortunately I didn’t get the spot for the Olympics.
“That was tough – I took time off to try and think about everything and then unfortunately at the start of this year I broke my hand, but everything is up and ready now.”
He added: “There is a lot of aim for this year. Obviously there’s the World Championships, but before that we have the British Championships (in Sheffield at the end of this month).”
Dixon will compete in the individual event and also the men’s synchro with fellow Plymothian Euan McCabe at the British Championships, which will be the main selection event for this year’s major championships.
Dixon is only 22 but has already been to two Commonwealth Games and won two medals in Australia four years ago.
Yet he admits he would love to compete at another this summer with 16-year-old McCabe.
“We have done the Futures which was our first senior competition and I was proud of him (Euan) as he has never done synchro with me before and he really held his nerve,” said Dixon. “There are a few things to work on, but we will try to get through that.
“Our synchro is there, but we just have to polish up on our actual dives.”
He added: “I’m 22 now but he’s only 16 so he has a lot of time left, but he’s keeping up with me and keeping me working hard.
“It is good for him to dive next to me and I think he enjoys it.
“For the Commonwealths, there are two synchro spots available and three individual. I’m trying for both individual and synchro.
“We will do the synchro at the British Champs, but it is hard. You saw at the Futures that the other (England) pairs (Ben Cutmore and Kyle Kothari and Matty Lee and Noah Williams) have been working hard and doing a lot more synchro than we have. With us in two different places (London and Plymouth) it is hard to train a lot.
“The others did exceptionally well and credit to them as they were big scores, but the main one is at the British Champs and we will see how that goes.”
“I looked up to Tom (Daley) and he looks up to me so we are keeping that chain of divers going,” said Dixon. “He’s got plenty of time left and I think he is going to be an amazing diver in the future.”
Great Britain junior international McCabe says it is great to be diving alongside Dixon.
“It is brilliant,” he said. “He was my idol from very little so it is amazing that I am now doing synchro with him.”
Covid and the Life Centre closure also hit European junior medallist McCabe hard. He missed a lot of training and top junior internationals and even though the Life Centre diving pool is fully back open, the fact that it was closed for 18 months saw older divers, like senior internationals Dixon and Emily Martin, move to London.
“The training environment is a lot different now,” admits McCabe. “I used to train with the likes of Matt and other older divers but now I am the oldest and training with all the younger ones who are like 13 and younger.”
But McCabe, like Dixon, also has big goals this year as he also comes back from injury.
“The Junior Europeans is one of my important comps,” he said. “But hopefully I can also qualify for the Junior Worlds, which is at the end of the year. That’s my biggest aim, along with the Commonwealths, but we will just have to see how it goes.”
Fellow Plymouth diver Aidan Heslop also competed at the Futures Cup international as he prepares to hopefully represent Wales at this summer’s Commonwealth Games, as well as compete on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
Former Plymouth diver Robyn Birch won the women’s platform final, while Dixon and Martin teamed up for Great Britain in the team event.