Four years ago identical twins Helen and Carol Galashan competed for Scotland in Melbourne as part of the gymnastics squad.
On the plan on the way home they were reflecting on their experiences and looking to the future, and Delhi 2010 when they had an usual vision for the next Games. “We definitely want to do another Commonwealth Games,” they said in unison.“But we won’t be gymnasts. We’ll be divers.”
This was a pretty bold ststement given that they had never even dived from a board when they made that prediction.
“It came around when we were in Melbourne,” said Helen. “There was a diver there I had competed against four years earlier, as a gymnast, called Alex Croak. We were like, ‘Oh, we’d be really good at that’ and our mum said we should try it.
“We always thought it would be really cool if we could do synchronised gymnastics and compete as a team. We were competing and sometimes, because it was individual competition, one was on a high and the other was on a low. Now we can have them together, we’re both here together and it’s amazing.”
Things happened incredibly quickly after Melbourne. After kicking the idea around for a couple of months, the twins attended a diving class in Leeds, where they were attending University.
“We were like kids, jumping off the boards, getting out of the pool and running round to do it again. We loved it,” said Helen. “The coach said, ‘have you ever done diving before’ and we said, ‘no’.
“He told us to do a straight jump off the low, low board. Carol got up and did a perfect jump, pointed toes, everything. He looked at me and said, ‘you’ve never done that before?’ and I said, ‘no, but we used to be gymnasts’. He said, ‘that explains it’. In that half-hour lesson he said we had covered an eight-week diving course.”
They were quickly picked up by the national coaching system and taken to Sheffield for a trial. Talent transfer was on a roll and the combination of their gymnastic background with “the twin thing” was an easy sell for the coaching team.
“We have that special twin thing,” explained Carol, and Helen. “Sometimes at training we won’t say ‘go’, we’ll just look at each other and go at the same time. We totally finish each other’s sentences. We go out shopping separately and buy the same things. One year we bought each other the same birthday card and present.
“There was a pair at the Athens Olympics who dyed their hair the same colour. Because it’s a synchronised sport, if you can stand on the board and look the same, it does give you that edge, because it’s a subject-ive sport. We can train separately, but as soon as we’re together, it just happens – we don’t even try.”
Two years after taking their first step off a board, they narrowly missed out on a place in Team GB for the Beijing Olympics. The following year, they were national champions, after unveiling a dive that had never been attempted by a synchronised team before.
“We were the first pair in the world to try the synchronised back handstand dive and we will be competing with that in the Commonwealth Games,” said Carol. “It’s difficult to have that control, and to be able to speak in a handstand, to say ‘go’ and to take off at the same time. But because of our gymnastic background we have quite a steady handstand, and being twins… our coach said, ‘if anyone can do it, it’s you two’.”
The dive has since been adopted by a German team, who took gold with it at this year’s European championships. The Galashans did not compete in that event, after a bronze medal in 2009, and have had an inactive year due to injuries. They are desperate for Delhi, and have been working on their signature dive, improving the consistency of a risky, potentially match-winning manoeuvre. Four years after making their bold prediction on a plane from Melbourne, the Galashan twins are ready to make a splash.