Long before he took the world by storm in hardman performances in Hollywood, Jason Michael Statham was more commonly seen above a swimming pool near a diving board, dreaming of an entry into the sporting world.
Early Sporting Career
As a young teenager, Statham was an all round athlete interested in trampolining, high jump, gymnastics, football, tennis and squash. Boxing and martial arts were his main interests before he changed his mind around the age of thirteen. He recounts being impressed by "a guy who was doing a high dive" while he was away on a holiday and found his calling in the sport.
Where most other divers usually start training at the age of four or five, Statham only began to dive from fifteen. He would manage his school timings and would spend the rest of the day in Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in Shirebrook, where Kim White would coach him. White later became the British Diving Programme Manager, and impressed with Statham, inducted him in the British National Diving School.
Jason was included in the British Diving School in 1985 and was praised for his fearless precision and calm nature as he quickly rose as one of the greatest divers in the country. He competed at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990 where the then 23-year-old can barely be recognised today due to his head of hair.
The Hollywood action hero didn't win a medal at the Games and landed with a splash finishing 8th at the 1 metre springboard event with a paltry score of 487.26 points and 11th in both the 3 metre and 10 metre high Diving competitions. However officials at the Edinburgh Diving Club reported that despite his poor performance, Statham was "England's leading light at the Games. His control and accuracy made him a formidable opponent."
Statham did his reputation no harm as he finished third in Olympic trials on three different occasions and competed in the 1988 Games in Seoul, the Barcelona Olympiad in 1992 and the Olympics in Atlanta four years later. He also finished twelfth in the World Championships held in Barcelona in 1992.
The diver goes on screen
Around 1996, the Crystal Palace Sports Centre shut down and relocated to Sheffield. A modelling offer from Greece meant financial security and there was no looking back for the heart-throb as he soon went on to star in cult classics like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the Transporter series.
Statham recounts his playing days with nostalgia and remembers how a "silly hobby" changed his life.
He singles out the 1990 CWG in New Zealand as being “a great experience”.
“Despite the hard work, the failure to win a medal made me more disciplined, taught me to focus on hard work and determined me for the success of my future endeavours."