Over the course of last season, we ran a series of features in the Official Matchday Programme with some Arsenal-supporting London 2012 Olympic hopefuls. We continue with diving star Peter Waterfield...
There are eight gold medals up for grabs for diving at the 2012 Games. Men’s and women’s events consist of the 3m springboard, 3m synchronised springboard, 10m platform and 10m synchronised platform with points gained through a variety of techniques used while airborne.
East London-born diver Peter Waterfield specialises in the 10m platform event, both as a solo competitor and in the synchronised event. The keen Arsenal supporter won silver in the 10m synchronised diving event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens alongside Leon Taylor and is set to partner Tom Daley in the 2012 Games. Pete spoke to the matchday programme about his hopes for the Olympics and his long-standing passion for Arsenal Football Club.
How are preparations for 2012 coming along for you?
Everything seems to be going well. I’ve started diving with Tom Daley this year and we’ve been picking up medals and doing well against the very best in the world, so we have to be optimistic for 2012. I’ve had a bit of an up and down year as far as the individual events go. Some events have gone very well, while others have been a bit of a disappointment. As long as everything pulls together for the Olympics, I’ll be happy.
What inspired you to get into the sport?
My interest in diving began when I was nine. I was involved in lots of sports from an early age as my family encouraged me to get involved in activities to stay out of trouble. I tried judo, karate and of course football. One day, when I was learning to swim, I noticed the divers at the other end of the pool and thought it looked exciting. The rest is history as they say - I started diving soon after that, loved it and never looked back.
Where does your affection for Arsenal stem from?
My eldest brother is a massive Arsenal fan, so when I was young my first knowledge of anything football related revolved around the Gunners. As Highbury wasn’t far away from where I lived and also because of the connection through my brother, it didn’t take long for his passion for the Club to rub off on me. Family is usually the biggest influence in terms of what football club you support and it proved the case for me.
What was your first game?
My first game was Arsenal v Panathinakos, a Champions League game played at Wembley in 1998, which we won 2-1. Going to watch a ‘home’ game there before having been to Highbury to see a game felt slightly strange I must say. My schedule in the run-up to the Olympics has meant I don’t make it to as many games as I would like at the moment.
And your son is big Arsenal fan too?
Yes, that’s right. My son is absolutely football mad and is another Gunner. I’ve started taking him to games and he loves it. As we live in Southampton now, we also have season tickets at St Mary’s, so he gets to see lots of live matches
Why did you move from London to Southampton?
I’m originally from Walthamstow and formerly trained at Crystal Palace, which was a fair old commute every day. My coach (Lindsey Fraser) was a school teacher at the time, so I was restricted to only being able to train a couple of hours in the evening every week. In 1999, I moved to Southampton as a result of a new pool being built there and my coach moving there to work full-time. I relocated with her, in order to get the chance to train properly and develop myself to compete against the best in the world.
What has been your biggest highlight as an Arsenal fan?
I know you are bound to get this answer all the time, but my best moment being an Arsenal fan has to be the unbeaten season of 2003/04. The football we played was phenomenal and to achieve the feat of not losing throughout a whole season is unheard of in the modern era. It’s great to have written ourselves into the history books for that. Nobody will forget the ‘Invincibles’.
And what about favourite players for you over the years?
Again, I’m not going to be massively original here! My favourite players over the years have included Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Marc Overmars and Robert Pires. The pace, the flair and ability that those players had was unbelievable and it was a pleasure to watch them in action. Few opponents could deal with them on their day and we won so many trophies with them in the side. I was also a big fan of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri - it’s a shame they have both moved on, but it makes way for a new generation of players.
Who do you enjoy watching currently in our first-team squad?
I was aware of the emergence of Theo Walcott when he started doing good things with Southampton, so I was delighted when Arsenal signed him. He’s proven to be a great player and over the last season or two in particular he’s matured into a top-class international. I’m now very excited about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fares. Again, he looked one hell of a prospect at St Mary’s.