After a decade competing internationally, James Heatly has become well-versed in which emotions are likely to raise their head in the lead up to a major competition.

Except this time, something is different for Scotland’s top male diver. At the diving event at the European Games, which begins today, he has a point to prove.

It is an alien feeling for the 26-year-old, but one he is embracing.

From his late teens until the past year or so, Heatly’s career was progressing almost flawlessly.

Having broken into the British team, he became a regular in GB colours, consistently appearing at major championships and winning international medals.

However, the past year has seen Heatly face more obstacles than he has been used to.

His first set-back was missing out on selection for the 2022 World Championships last June and while a few weeks later he won Commonwealth gold in the mixed synchro event with Grace Reid, a hat-trick of fourth places in his other events was disappointing for the Edinburgh diver.

With last season having been blighted by injury, Heatly took an enforced lay-off at the end of last year and although he was back competing by the time the British Championships rolled around last month, he was still short of his best, meaning when the British squad for this summer’s World Championships was selected, Heatly again missed out.

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It has been a series of blows that would dishearten anyone but as one of the elder statesmen in the British diving team for this week’s Games, Heatly is in no mood to take these disappointments lying down. Instead, he is hell-bent on proving he is still a force to be reckoned with when the diving competition begins today in the Polish city of Rzeszow.

“These disappointments I’ve had definitely do give me that extra push. I’ve had a few knocks recently so it’s been tough,” he says. “Britain’s men’s diving squad is just so strong these days so while it’s great for GB, it makes selection so much tougher. There’s probably six guys who could make top 12 at the Worlds this summer but there’s only two spots so it’s really hard to make the team. So it does give me that bit of fire.

“Having these close misses does sting that bit more but it’s better to be in the fight than to be outside of it looking in.

“So I’m looking forward to reminding everyone what I’m capable of at these Europeans and that I’m still around. I do feel like I’ve got a bit of a point to prove.”

The Herald:

Heatly has fond memories of the European Games. His previous appearance at the event was in 2015 where he picked up three medals, one of each colour.

Much has happened in the intervening years, not least the Scot becoming an Olympian in Tokyo two years ago.

He is older and wiser going into this summer’s event than he was in Baku in 2015 which feels like a lifetime ago. The experience he has gained is likely to come in handy in the coming days given his disrupted winter and delayed start to his season.

However, while his preparation may have been far from ideal, it allowed him to get a back injury, that had been bothering him for quite some time, under control.

And while he is still searching for the sharpness that comes only with competing, he is satisfied with his form and so has arrived in Poland with lofty targets.

He will compete in the 1m springboard, 3m synchro and 3m mixed synchro, reuniting with Reid.

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There is more than a little disappointment that he will not contest the 3m springboard, in which he won gold at the 2015 Games, but nevertheless, he has no hesitation in admitting another few visits to the podium are his target this week.

“I was competing in pain pretty much all the time last season so it was nice to get things sorted,” he says.

“With my pre-season having been delayed, I’m not quite at the stage I’d like to be at but considering it all, I’m happy.

“The momentum is coming because physically, I’m feeling much better and so the plan is to stand on the podium three times this week.”