Southampton's Olympic diver Pete Waterfield puts football passion on hold

Pete Waterfield

Pete Waterfield

First published in Sport

HE’S the St Mary’s season ticket holder who is also an avid Arsenal fan.

But Pete Waterfield has more pressing concerns on his mind than any Premier League -related news at the moment.

That’s because the London-born Southampton -based diver is counting down the days to when he hopes to become one of Great Britain’s first medalists at the London Olympics .

Waterfield competes in both the 10m individual platform event and the 10m synchro with poster boy Tom Daley.

Diving, though, is by no means Waterfield’s only sporting interest.

Though he grew up a big Arsenal fan – due to the fact one of his brothers supported the Gunners – Waterfield and his son Lewis also have season tickets at St Mary’s.

Lewis, however, is more Arsenal than Southampton.

“My son is absolutely football mad and is another Gunner,” said Waterfield.

“I’ve started taking him to games and he loves it. As we live in Southampton now, we also have season tickets at St Mary’s, so he gets to see lots of live matches.”

Waterfield senior first watched Arsenal in the flesh at Wembley, when a Champions League game against Panathinakos was staged there.

“Going to watch a ‘home’ game there before having been to Highbury to see a game felt slightly strange I must say,” he recalled.

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“My schedule in the run-up to the Olympics has meant I don’t make it to as many games as I would like at the moment.”

Waterfield’s top memory as a Gunners fan remains the 2003/04 ‘invincibles’ season when Arsene Wenger’s men won the Premier League without losing a game.

“The football we played was phenomenal and to achieve the feat of not losing throughout a whole season is unheard of in the modern era,” he said.

“It’s great to have written ourselves into the history books for that.

Nobody will forget the ‘Invincibles’.

“My favourite players over the years have included Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Marc Overmars and Robert Pires.

“The pace, the flair and ability that those players had was unbelievable and it was a pleasure to watch them in action.

“Few opponents could deal with them on their day and we won so many trophies with them in the side.

“I was also a big fan of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri – it’s a shame they both moved on, but it makes way for a new generation of players.”

Living in Southampton for over a decade, Waterfield had certainly heard of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain prior to Arsenal signing the pair from Saints.

“I was aware of the emergence of Theo Walcott when he started doing good things with Southampton, so I was delighted when Arsenal signed him,” Waterfield said.

“He’s proven to be a great player and over the last season or two in particular he’s matured into a top-class international.

“I’m now very excited to see how Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fares.

Again, he looked one hell of a prospect at St Mary’s.”

Waterfield is aiming for his second Olympic medal since he decamped to Southampton in 1999.

Partnering Leon Taylor at the 2004 Athens Games, he won silver in the synchro event.

He had previously won a gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

As a result, the move from his London home to the south coast has been a good one.

“I’m originally from Walthamstow and formerly trained at Crystal Palace, which was a fair old commute every day,” Waterfield told the Arsenal website.

“My coach (Lindsey Fraser) was a school teacher at the time, so I was restricted to only being able to train a couple of hours in the evening every week.

“In 1999, I moved to Southampton as a result of a new pool being built there and my coach moving there to work full-time.

“I relocated with her, in order to get the chance to train properly and develop myself to compete against the best in the world.”

He has certainly done that to good effect, and will be doing so again in the London Games.

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