Diver Anton Down-Jenkins says he’s “stoked and still in shock” after being selected to the New Zealand Team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old, who is based in the US, was spending time with friends when he received one of the best phone calls of his life.
“I was just watching TV with some friends when I got the call and it was all big hugs, big smiles and celebrations after that,” said Down-Jenkins.
“It just shows that if you want something and you work hard enough at it you can make it happen."
Down-Jenkins moved from Wellington to the US in 2018. He’s now based at North Carolina University and says the move has paid off.
“I’m super proud to represent New Zealand, we don’t have as much resource in diving as some of the big powerhouse nations and so that just makes me even more thrilled with this achievement. It’s so awesome to know that my hard work has paid off.”
Olympic Summer Games
Down-Jenkins secured his Olympic quota spot at the Diving World Cup Olympic Qualification Event held in Japan earlier this month.
Competing in the 3m springboard, Down-Jenkins placed 10th at the event, New Zealand’s best ever finish at a Diving World Cup.
“I just went into the competition wanting to have fun and I told myself if I qualify an Olympic spot that’s great but if it doesn’t happen no worries.
“My headspace and mindset is something I’ve really been working on lately and it really paid dividends at that competition.”
The former Wellington High School student began diving at a ‘have a go day’ at Kilbirnie Pool and hasn’t looked back since.
“Diving is such a beautiful sport because it requires so much strength, so much explosiveness and so much grace. There’s so many components to it and when all those components line up perfectly and you do a great dive that feeling is so amazing you can’t even describe it.”
The Olympic Games selection is apt reward for Down-Jenkins after a “scary” episode late last year.
“I got COVID last August and it was pretty rough. It took me a while to get back to where I could perform but I’ve been great for the past four months and can’t wait to get back to Tokyo.”
Down-Jenkins is a member of the rainbow community and is passionate about being a sporting role model for LGBTQ+ people.
“We don’t see too much LGBTQ+ representation in sport, so I want to be part of that representation for my community and in turn help break down the idea that someone’s sexual orientation or identity is a barrier for success in the sporting realm.”
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith congratulated Down-Jenkins.
“Well done on your selection to the New Zealand Team. It’s fantastic to have a New Zealand diving representative at the Olympic Games and we look forward to seeing you compete in Tokyo in two-months time.”
Diving New Zealand Convener of Selectors Simon Latimer also extended his congratulations to Down-Jenkins.
“Anton’s performance at the Diving World Cup was simply phenomenal. He was ranked within the worlds top 10 divers over three consecutive rounds and never missed a beat. Anton has displayed impressive mental resilience with the interruptions he has had to training and competing over the last year, and we are very proud of his performance.”
Down-Jenkins is set to become the first New Zealand male to compete in diving at the Olympic Games since Mark Graham and Gary Lamb in 1984.
New Zealand diver Elizabeth Cui also qualified a diving spot for New Zealand but will not be competing in Tokyo as she is pregnant with her first child.
“Although I won’t be able to compete at Tokyo I’m so thrilled to be starting a wee family and brewing a future NZ Olympian. I’d like to congratulate Anton and I can’t wait to watch him represent New Zealand diving in Tokyo!” said Cui.