Having made her Commonwealth Games debut in 2018 at the Gold Coast, Robyn Birch was selected for Team England at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and, alongside her diving partner Emily Martin, she won Bronze in the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform. In June, Robyn competed in Budapest for her third World Championships, and she became British champion with her synchronised diving partner Emily after winning Gold at the British Championships the previous month. At last year’s FINA Diving Team Exhibition, Robyn won Silver alongside her Team GB teammates James Heatly and Matthew Dixon and next up for Robyn will see her competing at the British Nationals in the hope of making the Great Britain team for the World Championships. Robyn talks to us about winning Bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, becoming the British champion with Emily Martin earlier this year and competing at the FINA Diving Team Exhibition in 2021.
How did you find the experience representing Team England at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and how did it feel being selected for the team?
The Birmingham aquatics facility was an amazing pool to dive in. The fact that it was a home crowd made it so much more special. My synchro partner and I had been training hard, so being selected for the England team showed that all our hard work paid off.
What was it like competing in front of a home crowd for a major international multi-sports event and how was it attending the opening and closing ceremonies?
Competing in front of a home crowd was such an exhilarating moment. The crowd showed so much support for Team England, I believe it really helped spur all the athletes on in their events.
Attending the opening and closing ceremonies was such a feel-good feeling. The England divers were at the front of Team England in the march on. So it was great being the first few athletes from England to walk out within the ceremony.
Can you tell us how it felt winning Bronze in the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform with your diving partner Emily Martin and how did you stay focused during the competition?
It honestly felt like a dream. I don’t normally look at the standings until the end of the competition, so I had no idea where we were on the leaderboard until after our final dive. It was such a great feeling being able to win a medal in front of a home crowd. Emily and I are really good at making each other feel relaxed during a competition. We talk to each other like we would in training, which helps normalise the situation.
How different was it competing at the Commonwealth Games this year opposed to your debut Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in 2018?
This Commonwealth Games felt slightly different for me. I enjoyed both of them so much. In 2018, I competed in the synchro and individual event, whereas this one I only had synchro to focus on. Competing in the individual event is such a great experience and something I want to aim for again in the future, but it can feel quite lonely sometimes competing on your own. Whereas being able to solely focus on synchro for the Birmingham Games with Emily, meant I always had my friend there to experience the journey with me.
In June, you competed in Budapest for your third World Championships, how was it competing in the synchronised event there and what do you enjoy most about competing at the World Championships?
Even though it was my third World Championships, it was my first time competing at that level in the synchro event. Similarly to the Commonwealth Games, it was great to have my synchro partner with me to enjoy the journey together. The World Championships is such an exciting event. It’s such a good experience being able to compete against the best divers in the world. It’s like one big family, travelling the world together and catching up with international friends.
What’s it like competing at the British Championships and how was it winning Gold at this year’s Championships with Emily in the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform?
I always find the British National a nerve-racking event. It’s such an important event for everyone’s competition selection for the year. However, it’s great to showcase what I’ve been working on. There’s always a level of excitement of possible competition opportunity I could gain for the season.
Winning the Gold medal and becoming British champions was such a high moment. It makes it feel even better when my parents are there to witness us do it.
Last year, you won Silver in the FINA Diving Team Exhibition at Abu Dhabi with James Heatly and Matthew Dixon, how was this?
The exhibition was a very unique but exciting competition. Diving from 3 metres and 10 metres into the sea with jellyfish popping up was something I’ve never experienced before. It was such a fun competition and I would love to do it again someday. I haven’t competed on 3 metre Springboard since I was a junior diver. Because of this, our level of difficulty on 3 metre was lower than most countries as I am a platform specialist. So, coming away with a Silver was something our team never expected.
What was it like getting back to competitions after COVID closed pools?
COVID definitely took a massive hit for everyone in the sporting world. I come to train every day to work towards something. But with so many competitions being cancelled and the uncertainty of what was going to happen, it felt like we had nothing to work for. So with competitions being back on and having a normal routine again just motivates me even more.
Can you tell us about some of your stand-out highlights and favourite memories from your diving career so far?
My highlights would be coming 4th at the London World Series in the 10 metre individual event. Winning Bronze at the Canada Cup Grand Prix with a personal best in the individual event. Becoming British champion and winning a Bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in front of a home crowd.
Do you remember how you felt representing Great Britain and England for the first time?
The first time I represented Great Britain was as a junior. It was an amazing feeling receiving my GB kit for the first time and trying it on. It was so much fun travelling with my diving friends and having the opportunity to make new international friends.
Where does your love of diving come from and how did you get into it?
Before diving, I used to do gymnastics/sports acrobatics for seven years where I managed to reach senior European and World level. This gave me a great foundation when transferring over to diving. My PE teacher came up to me one day and gave me a letter. It was an invitation to try out diving at Crystal Palace. My parents took me for the talent testing day where we received great feedback from the club asking me to join. I trained two days a week in diving and the rest of the week in acrobatics. It got pretty tiring as I didn’t have a day off and on Sundays, I would do diving in the morning and acrobatics in the evening. I continued this for two years. I eventually decided to retire from acrobatics after winning a Team Silver medal at the World Championships, to train full time in diving and have been enjoying it ever since.
What is a typical training day for you and how different is it in the lead-up to a competition?
A typical training day would consist of getting up at around 6am to have breakfast and get ready for training. I live around one-and-a-half hours away from the London Aquatics Centre where I train, so I have to leave extra early. I start training at 8:30am where we do dryland training, which consists of trampolining work, weights and gymnastic skills. I then get in the diving pool where we do some actual diving till 11:00am. My teammates and I then have lunch together while we wait around and chill out before the second session at 1:30pm. We do the same again in the afternoon session and finish training around 4:00pm. Some days I coach in the evenings so I have a little break before coaching at 5:00pm till 7:30pm. I then make the train journey home to finally relax, spend time with family and watch some TV.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I am super close to my family so I love spending time with them when I can as diving does mean I miss out on lots of family events. I also like planning activities on the weekends with my boyfriend, escape room challenges are our favourite.
Have you been given any advice over the years that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a new diver?
I would say that I have been given lots of advice over the years from other divers and coaches but I think my main advice I would give a new diver would be to never forget to enjoy every moment within your diving career. There will be hard times but it’s about pushing through and making the best memories. A diving career will only be around for a short time of your life so make the most of it while you can.
Do you have any competitions coming up or have any that you are targeting that you can tell us about?
My next competition will be the British Nationals early in the year. This will give me opportunities to hopefully qualify for the World Championships.
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