Banks hails success of Life Centre as Daley and Couch relish medals
Andy Banks has declared the British Gas Diving Championships an unqualified success – and a vindication of Plymouth City Council's multi-million pound investment in the Life Centre.
Plymouth's Great Britain diving coach claimed the three-day championships, featuring the best of Britain's divers, had put the Devon city on the sporting map.
Banks added that the Central Park venue had been thoroughly road tested "on every level you would wish to mention" – with visiting clubs leaving Plymouth envious of the "fantastic facility".
They would also have been jealous of Plymouth's own healthy stock of established and burgeoning diving talent.
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Olympians Tom Daley, Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow all won gold medals. Plymouth's younger generation of athletes – Shanice Lobb, Kayleigh Sinclair, Ashley Hendrick and Matthew Dixon – all enhanced their reputations.
Banks added that feedback from visiting clubs had been positive during Plymouth's first stab at staging a national competition. He said: "I think everyone has gone home happy from what has been a successful event, both in competition and in organisation.
"The support from the punters has been special, with Plymouth spectators turning up in droves and supporting our guys alongside other teams' followers. All the sessions have been sold out and the enthusiasm with which the British Championships have been received is outstanding.
"Even when competition was at its hottest, people could still come along and use our brilliant swimming pool without having their pleasure spoilt or our tournament affected in any way.
"The front-of-house staff have been praised for being really helpful and the staff have laid on the food and lunches for different areas, and security has been in place without being intrusive.
"It's all these touches which people from the sport's governing body as well as other dignitaries will remember.
"With all respect to the others, I've always maintained that we have the best venue in the whole country.
"Some people had their doubts on spending £46.5 million on the Life Centre – I think Plymouth Council got it right. We now have sportsmen and sportswomen and a venue with the 'wow' factor in this city."
Daley, who easily retained his national ten metres platform title in front of a sell-out crowd on Sunday, said that there was an added bonus to competing in Plymouth.
"It feels a bit weird, actually," the 18-year-old former world champion and reigning European title holder said.
"Normally, when you're competing at a major competition, you leave the pool and go back to your hotel and sit around. But now I can go back home after competing and everything seems normal.
"Yes, there was a lot more pressure on me than usual because it was at home, but you get used to it. My next competition is also in Plymouth in the Armada Cup in a couple of weeks, so I'm looking forward to that," Daley added.
Couch won the women's 10m platform synchro title along with Plymouth team-mate Barrow last Friday, and then took the 10m individual title the following day.
"To walk away with a personal best and yet feel I could have done better is exciting," Couch said after her individual succes on Saturday.