Sunday morning during the Vaughan Baird Polar Bear Invitational Diving Classic at the Pan Am Pool, Winnipeg divers Kevin Geyson and Lauren Penko were able to try out some of the adjustments they've been working on with national team head coach Michel Larouche, and the results were rewarding.
Larouche travels to various centres where national team members such as Geyson train, to work with them one-on-one.
"With Kevin we try to solve some technical issues," said Larouche, adding he works along with Pan Am Diving Club and provincial coach Jim Lambie.
"His kick-out, and spotting and all that. But while I am here, I am also open to help everybody, so Lauren (national team, but not carded) is also part of the program."
There were only two women and two men entered in the open 10-metre tower events, but Geyson and Penko still had to work for their gold medals.
Geyson trailed Eric Sehn of Edmonton after his first four dives, but in the fourth and fifth, he passed him to win with 374.65 points to Sehn's 358.85.
Penko also trailed after her first two dives, but caught a break when Etobicoke's Nicole Scott was docked two points when she lost her balance on her handstand in the third dive. Penko finished with 294 points for the gold, and Scott finished second with 243.65.
Larouche has been working on Geyson's spotting, which is simply being able to see where you are in relation to your surroundings when rotating in a dive.
"It's very important, in order to be consistent in the dive," said Larouche. "I have been working with him on the trampoline and the safety belt. We make him spin, and teach him how to see while he is rotating."
"I think it is really helping," said Geyson. "It's a safe environment, so I can really make a lot of changes. Making changes from 10 metres could end up in disaster. The trampoline is a good way to do it."
"You have to make sure you have the tools, and be very precise, because you have to be vertical in diving," said Larouche. "Internationally, we are looking at being able to do dives for 9.5 or 10, and to do that you have to land vertical. We want to make sure Kevin continues to progress at the level he is capable of. The goal for Kevin is to make the Olympic team."
"The workouts have been very different, but in a great way," said Penko. "He has introduced a lot of new techniques for helping us to improve, so it's a really great experience."
"Lauren is very good, talented, and works really hard," said Larouche. "She added one new dive this year, which is the arm stand back somersault back double with one-and-a-half twists, and it is getting a lot better. She is also working towards increasing her degree of difficulty, so it is just a matter of time. Lauren can certainly be part of the (national) team if she dives really well at the next trials."
The next trials for both Geyson and Penko is the Winter Nationals in Toronto Jan. 29-31. Larouche says that Penko needs to finish among the top five or six, but most importantly, she will need to score a standard. "Position matters," said Larouche, "but really it doesn't if you don't make the standard."
The 25-year-old Penko is optimistic. "The standard is 290, and today I went 294. That's a great boost just before the nationals."
The carrot at the end of the stick in Toronto is that if Penko and Geyson qualify, they will get to travel to specific Grand Prix events throughout Europe. "If we can do well at those, it can potentially mean a spot on the national team," said Penko.
Geyson said that his standard is 390. "It's possible, I have done it a couple of times before, but I am going to need to be on. I'll need to make the changes that we are working on, so a couple more weeks, and I'll be ready."