IT may seem incredible to say when Tokyo 2020 ended only a matter of months ago but for James Heatly, the build-up to Paris 2024 has already begun. 

A ninth place finish in the 3m springboard final in Tokyo was an impressive showing but Heatly is far from resting on his laurels in the aftermath of his Olympic debut. 

With his sights set on challenging for a podium place in Paris, Heatly knows he has no time to waste, which is why he’s using his first competitive appearance since his return from Japan as the starting point for what, he hopes, will be a steady improvement over the next two and a half years. 

Over the next four days, Heatly will be in action at the Scottish Diving Championships at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in his home city of Edinburgh and he is, he admits, looking forward to setting a benchmark for this Olympic cycle, as well as adding to his current tally of 32 senior national titles. 

“I normally play it quite safe at the Scottish but having done the Olympics, now the long-term goal is to get on the podium in Paris and so the groundwork for that starts now,” says the 24-year-old who will compete in the 1m and 3m springboard, as well as the 3m synchro event this week. 

“So with an eye to that, I’ve got some new dives and some things to try out in my individual events at the Scottish and so we’ll see how that goes.  

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“Now is the time to have a bit of fun to make sure that everything is in place going into Paris. 

“Now I’ve got that Olympic experience, it’s about moving forward from here.” 

That Heatly was a part of Team GB for Tokyo this summer is testament to his talent. 

The British men’s diving squad boasts such strength-in-depth these days that securing a spot in the team is reserved solely for those who can compete with the very best in the world

While the pandemic was welcomed by some athletes for giving them an extra year to prepare for the Olymics, Heatly, who was in pole position to qualify for Team GB at the start of 2020, was left cursing the delay, with the slate wiped clean and the process beginning again. 

However, Heatly rose to the challenge impressively. 

A silver medal in the World Cup just months before the start of the Games trumped his previous best results of Commonwealth Games and European Championship bronze and he admits that despite the sleepless nights the qualification process gave him, he is a far stronger athlete having successfully endured it. 

“The strength in depth in the squad is great for GB but it’s rubbish for me because it makes it so hard. And so because of that, just making the team is a real accomplishment,” he says. 

“Building up to the Games, there was quite a few times I didn’t feel ready and felt very nervous but actually, when my back when against the wall, I was able to push all of that to one side and get the job done so I’m really proud of that. 

 “Going forward, I feel pretty confident. I just need to keep setting higher targets for myself now.” 

In the short-term, Heatly’s target is next summer’s Commonwealth Games, which are only eight months away. 

The Games will, he admits, always have a special place in his heart due to his family history in the event – his grandfather, Peter Heatly, is the most successful Scottish diver in Commonwealth Games history – and having won bronze in 2018, Heatly is hungry for further success in Birmingham. 

For a number of years, Heatly and his compatriot, Grace Reid, have been flying the flag alone with little back-up but that is fast changing. 

A raft of younger divers coming through bodes well for Birmingham 2022 and means Heatly has the added responsibility of leading by example, as well as being force to stay on his toes in domestic events such as this weekend’s national championships. 

“We’ve got a really strong Scottish team coming through and that’s so great to see,” he says. 

“I like there being more strength, I love a good competition.  

“I know that with these younger guys coming through, I can’t just rock up this weekend and expect to win, I’ll have to concentrate and perform well.”