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A nine-year-old New South Wales diver with his eyes on a national title is being forced to travel more than four hours to train after his local pool shut down for the winter.
Bana Lavine has come a long way since teaching himself to backflip and somersault on his backyard trampoline in Port Macquarie.
Having developed an interest in the sport watching YouTube videos, he is now set to represent his state in School Sports Australia’s national diving competition in Perth, Western Australia.
But with his local diving pool is now closed for winter simply getting to training is his first ordeal, with the nearest indoor facility almost five hours away in Sydney.
“It’s going to be hard, now the local pool is closed,” Bana said.
“We’re going to have to travel there a lot now.”
“In Sydney, it’s amazing. Some private schools have diving boards. But here in the country, we don’t have that training.
“But I’m looking forward to it because I love learning new dives.
“If I do all my training and I try my very best I have a small chance that I might come third.”
His mother, Kim Brinkman said it would be a huge commitment, involving 10 hours drive for a four hour training session.
“They’re big days,” she said.
“We’re picking him up early from school to get there, and then it’s a long time in the pool to make the trip worth it.
“He’s only nine, but he tells me ‘mum, it’s the biggest opportunity of my life,’ and when he puts it that way, I know I have to help.”
Ms Brinkman calculates that his path to the nationals will cost more than $5000, and the family has begun fundraising.
“He’s been raising what he can, even taking a bucket around with a placard so people know what he’s up to,” she said.
An unusual sport for regional youth
The region’s sports co-ordination officer, Michael Kirwan, said Bana was the first primary school age springboard diver he can remember.
“Diving is not a high participation sport and I think that’s because there are not many diving towers left in the region,” Mr Kirwan said.
“It takes discipline and dedication, so the athlete needs to be driven and also supported by their family, as well as have the opportunities.”
Mr Kirwan said it is important to give young students the opportunity to reach an elite level.
“The teachers that run those programs volunteer their time to give these students an opportunity,” he said.
Bana will attend the Athlete Development Program, which is specifically set up for divers from the country whose outdoor facilities close over winter, at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
Also present will be athletes from Wagga Wagga, Canberra, Newcastle, and Albury–Wodonga.
Bana’s family will also pay for travel, uniforms, accommodation, coaching and the levy for the competition.
Coach Kevin Chavez is himself a former Australian Olympic diver who rose through the same scholarship program.
“We work with individual skills and targets to improve and modify their dive skills,” Mr Chavez said.
Mr Chavez says that because he is still competing and training himself, he can offer a certain quality of training to the young divers.
“If they ask me how to do a certain move I can take my shoes off and show them,” he said.
“They learn so much from watching.
“In [the] moment, you need to co-ordinate your body and mind to jump, or not to jump.
“When the body moves, and the brain is not ready, you can put yourself in danger.
“We try to make them fearless.”
Journey began with YouTube training
Bana’s pathway to diving began with YouTube videos, which he used to teach himself how to somersault and backflip in his backyard.
Bana joined a gymnastics club, but there was no coach available in men’s artistic gymnastics to progress him further.
His mother, Kim Brinkman, said that he looked for another sport where there was a specific program for boys.
“Diving is his new favourite sport, where he can spin and flip through the air to his heart’s content,” she said.
Bana also intends to go to diving camp being held in Lightning Ridge, eight hours drive from home, during the July school holidays.
The national diving competition will be held in Perth in September.