It’s next stop Olympics for diver Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix, who was stunned to have been crowned BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
The 16-year-old from Nunhead was announced as the winner on December 10 during Blue Peter and featured during the ceremony at MediaCity on Sunday.
Though 2020 has been a strange year the young star, she made a stellar start with a first senior title at the British Championships in the 10m platform.
A month later, Spendolini-Sirieix repeated the performance on the international stage winning her first solo international gold medal at the FINA Diving Grand Prix in Rostock.
These achievements landed her a place on the Young SPOTY shortlist and she was soon in the history books as the first female diver to win the award.
“I was so happy I was bouncing up and down. I couldn’t stop smiling,” Spendolini-Sirieix explained.
“With the nomination itself, I was so happy to be nominated and I was so honoured to be nominated.
“When I found out I won, I didn’t know what to say. I was at Blue Peter and it made the experience so much more amazing and surreal, it was a great feeling.
“I had no words whatsoever but I’m just really happy and grateful that my hard work is being seen and is paying off.
“Diving is such a beautiful sport and I feel very honoured to have been the second diver to win the award.”
Spendolini-Sirieix started diving at the age of eight when she was talent spotted by Crystal Palace Diving Club.
She swam and did gymnastics as a child so had the flexibility and strength needed to succeed, but she didn’t enjoy the sport straight away.
It took a while for her to be convinced but now her love for the sport grows and she is grateful to be part of the diving community.
“I was talent tested in Year 3 by Crystal Palace and from there I did a few days a week and got into the sport competitively,” she said.
“I did bigger dives and got more interested in diving and then my love grew for the sport.
“At first, I didn’t actually like it because I thought it was too hard, but the bigger dives you do, you feel really accomplished and really proud of yourself.
“I really liked the fact I could push myself and test my bravery and see what I could so. Now I love it because it’s what I’ve grown up with and it’s bringing me closer to my dream.
“At the club, it’s almost like they’ve become my second family and they’re like my sisters and my brothers.
“I love having that community feeling and it just makes me really excited to go to training because I can talk to them and we can dive together. It’s really fun.”
Young SPOTY isn’t the only accolade the SportsAid recipient has achieved this year, as she also claimed British Swimming’s Dive of the Year.
Her title-winning final dive, the Back 2 ½ Somersaults 1 ½ Twists, was the dive chosen by the public as the best of the year and the teenager was thrilled to be recognised.
“I was in the middle of training and I was having a break,” Spendolini-Sirieix added.
“I checked my phone and saw it, I screamed ‘Oh my gosh, I just won Dive of the Year’ – that session was a very good session.
“It was the last dive and there was a lot of pressure. I was really nervous but I got 8s and 8.5s and if you watch the video, you can hear my mum screaming really loud.
“It’s what secured the gold and I think that is what got me to the podium. When I got out the water there’s a really big smile on my face.
“Thinking about it, I miss competing now because it’s such a great feeling when you compete and finish competing and you are happy with what you’re done.”
Along with the rest of the nation, Spendolini-Sirieix was unable to go to the pool and gym when the country was in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the diver is calling it a year of preparation and hopes it will stand her in good stead to achieve her dream.
Spendolini-Sirieix added: “I think the one year is just so we can focus on what we needed to personally.
“I think it really helped because I’m even more prepared than I was last year. It’s an extra year of practice.
“My ultimate goals are medalling at the Olympics and competing in many more GB competitions, going to Worlds, being able to travel with the team and having a job and career after my diving career.
“I’m really interested in law and politics and there’s a lot of information to learn about and I’m really passionate about the things that are happening everywhere and I’m really excited to go to university and study everything.”
Featured image credit: British Swimming.