As part of the Team GB diving squad, Lois Toulson made her Olympic debut at Rio in 2016 and recently competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and, earlier this year, she competed at the World Cup in Tokyo and European Aquatics Championships in Budapest, where she came away with a Silver medal in both for the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform with Eden Cheng. In 2018, Lois won a Bronze medal for her debut Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, and among her many medals received throughout her career, she won Gold at the European Championships in 2017. Also having a successful junior career, when making the transition to senior level, Lois and her diving partner at the time Tonia Couch, were able to train together at Plymouth in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics. For Lois’ first event of the upcoming season, she is due to compete at the National Championships in February, which is also the event for qualifying for most of next year’s international competitions. Speaking to Lois, she talks about competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, being part of Team GB and making her Commonwealth Games debut in 2018.
You’ve recently competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, how different did you find the experience competing there opposed to your debut Olympics in Rio in 2016?
I found the two games very different, not only as due to COVID there were no crowds and different safety measurements in place but I also competed Individual as well as Synchronised at the Tokyo Olympics which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, my family, of course, weren’t allowed to come out and watch, which was one of my favourite parts of Rio being able to see my mum and dad in the crowd and share some of the Olympic experience with them. I was also just 16 in 2016 and went into the games with no pressure and just soaking everything in, however, in 2020(1) at 21, I definitely felt more pressure even if it was just me putting it on myself as I was now the older, more experienced member of the Synchronised pair. I think I struggled with that feeling a bit but now I feel like moving forward I will be able to handle it slightly better and with a better mindset.
What did you enjoy most about staying in the Tokyo athletes village and being part of Team GB?
Being part of Team GB at the Olympics feels like such an honour and so special to be a part of. From team photos of the whole of Team GB at the front of our village building before the opening ceremony to our welcome meeting where we had videos from home including Princess Anne. Throughout the whole stay there, it felt like such a family and it was so amazing being able to talk to other athletes and cheer them on during the games.
Can you tell us how it feels finding out you’ve made the Olympic team for your country and also getting through to the final of an event?
Finding out you’ve made the Olympic team is honestly one of the best days of your life as an athlete. After the years of training and dedication, it’s almost a sigh of relief that it has all paid off and that you get to live out your childhood dream. Making the final in the Individual event really meant a lot to me, after having limited competitions to compete at due to coronavirus and the challenges of the past year and a half, making the final proved to me that if I can do it after all the struggles of this Olympic cycle, I know I can continue to move forward and improve on it in the future.
Earlier this year, you competed at both the World Cup in Tokyo and the European Aquatics Championships in Budapest, both of which you came away with Silver in the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform with your diving partner Eden Cheng, what were these events like to do?
These events were the first in over a year due to coronavirus so I was so happy to finally be back competing. They were almost used to brush the cobwebs off and get back into the competition environment and routines but I think this helped me as it felt like there was no pressure and I went into them with nothing to lose. Coming away with two Silver medals boosted our confidence as a synchro pair as that is something we had struggled with in the past and proved to ourselves that we were in with a chance for a medal at the Olympics which motivated us even more.
How was it returning to diving during the pandemic after pools/events could reopen?
It was great when we were finally able to return to the pools after so long away from them. It really made me appreciate what I have and the people around me allowing me to do what I love every day. I still trained whilst in lockdown at home doing things such as weight training and gymnastics in the garden, but at the end of the day you can’t replicate what you do in the pool in your front room so I think my parents were probably glad when the pools reopened again, haha.
What are some of your favourite memories from making your Commonwealth Games debut in 2018?
The Commonwealth Games in 2018 were one of my favourite competitions and Australia is one of my favourite places to have travelled to. It was at an outside pool on the Gold Coast which had amazing views from the 10 meter board which is a very good perk to the job. The athletes village was so amazing, as well as the main dining hall, there was a place called ‘casual dining’ where there was the best barbecue food. I also managed to come away from the competition with a Bronze medal which I think is the medal I am most proud of as it was an extremely tough field and most of the people in that event were people I had grown up looking up to.
Your career so far has seen you win numerous medals including Gold at the European Championships, can you tell us about some of your highlights over the years?
As well as the Commonwealth medal, I think winning European Champs in 2017 has been a massive highlight of my career. When I was a junior, I managed to win two Golds at the European Championships and I never really thought I would be able to do that on the senior stage. So, being able to do that in the first year of been a senior really opened my eyes to my future in the sport.
What was it like having a successful junior career and how did your training change when moving to senior level?
I have only ever done diving as it is something that I have loved to do since I was seven, so when I had success as a junior it never really changed anything, it was just great knowing that you’ve found something you love and can excel in. When I moved into the senior programme when I was fifteen, it meant travelling with the seniors, which was scary but also very exciting. We did lots of training camps in the UK and abroad and this is when I started to put my all into the sport and put less focus on my education. This allowed me to become part of the Synchro pairing alongside Tonia Couch and to travel down to Plymouth to train with her leading up to the Olympics in 2016.
Where does your love of diving come from and how did you start?
From a young age I always loved adrenaline-filled sports and the more unique ones. My sister and I were keen swimmers, but then I remember seeing the diving boards and thinking, wow, that looks fun, I wonder if I could try it. So my dad took me to a pool where they had a couple of higher boards and I ran up the stairs straight to the top and had all the lifeguards saying to stop and that I was too small to be up there, and I probably was but I jumped off and instantly asked if I could start lessons. Then I have just carried on from there really, starting off getting all the badges then progressing through different training groups to where I am now.
Do you have any advice for new divers starting out in their career?
I think my one piece of advice would be to just enjoy it and to make the most of all the opportunities that come your way.
How do you like to spend your time away from diving?
When I’m not diving, I like to spend time with my family, I have an older sister and a family dog called Stanley, he is a short-legged Jack Russell. Every weekend, my boyfriend Jack (Laugher) and I go over to my parents for a Sunday roast and a walk and it is the highlight of the week. We also have recently got a dog of our own so spend most of our time trying to train him. I also love to bake and, when I have time, enjoy trying new recipes but my favourite to make (and eat) is definitely cake.
Which competitions are you aiming for in the upcoming year and do you have any confirmed as yet that you’ll be competing in soon?
This upcoming year there is National Championships in February which will be the first event of the season and this is qualifying for most of the year’s international events. Due to the pandemic delaying certain competitions, the year’s schedule is pretty busy with World Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships. I hope to be able to compete at them all and hopefully put in some good performances.
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