Sarah Barrow on her remarkable journey to a second Olympics
6 July 2016 - Simon Gaskell
Leeds Beckett graduate Sarah Barrow says studying and training in Leeds has played a massive part in her Olympic journey – after defying the odds to reach a second games.
Sarah, 27, will compete in the 10m platform in Rio after winning gold at the British Diving Championships at the start of June.
That comes four years after a fifth-placed finish in the 10m synchronised event alongside Tonia Couch at London 2012.
Securing an appearance at consecutive Olympics has been far from straightforward, though.
Sarah was diagnosed with an Osteoid Osteoma – a non-cancerous tumour – in March 2014 after suffering with pain in her shins from September 2013.
Following two operations to remove the tumour, pain persisted and it was discovered she had tibial stress fractures in each shin.
Between July 2015 and February this year, Sarah was taken out of the synchronised team, restored and then taken out again.
She says the disappointment left her seriously considering her future in the sport.
BSc (Hons) Sport & Exercise Science graduate Sarah said: “I was completely devastated. I had to work out whether I wanted to continue in diving.
“I made my way up to Leeds again and worked with physios Alison Rose and Lucy Gledhill. I stayed with Rebecca Gallantree (City of Leeds diver) who is one of my best friends in diving.
“That was quite nice to have friends around me and work really hard.
“The line-up they had at the European Championships in May kind of looked like the team they would be taking to Rio. Watching it was quite sad really.”
Plymouth-born Sarah and her team from home devised a six-week plan for the Diving Championships in Sheffield, ahead of which she was told by the performance director she would need to get the required qualifying points in both rounds and win.
She duly delivered - romping to the national crown by securing gold in the final with a score of 347.90 after winning the earlier prelim with 320.80.
“On my third dive – the one that’s make or break really – if I hit it I knew I could do my last two really well and I hit it,” Sarah said.
“As soon as I saw the scores I kind of smiled. You know that’s it. I felt like I had done it.
“The fourth dive ended up going really well. I just kind of got out if the pool and looked at my parents and a lot of friends came from Plymouth as well. The cheering was so loud.”
Sarah’s performance and never-say-die attitude means she will take her place in Rio as part of the 11-strong diving squad, which was revealed in June.
Unlike in London where she competed in the synchronised event, in Rio she will take her place in the individual 10m platform.
She added: “The individual is a completely different competition. I am proud I have done it myself – it’s different to synchro. When you get up there, it’s all about you and it’s enjoyable in a different way.
“In the synchro you are in the top eight but in the individual you have to go through 36 people and get into the top 18 for the semi-finals.
“My set target is to get into the final. Once you are in the final, anything can happen. I found that out in the European Championship in 2013 when I reached the final.
“There was no pressure on me and I ended up fourth. I feel I want to put that experience into the Olympic Games.”
As for the influence of Leeds Beckett and Leeds, Sarah says she is grateful for the role it has played from her student days to now.
“I loved university,” she said.
“I had a scholarship which I was grateful for. It was so helpful and everyone was so supportive and I graduated with a 2:1.
“This time going up to Leeds… I wouldn’t have qualified and wouldn’t be going to the Olympics.
“It’s because of them that I’m kind of here.”