Twenty-two years ago, the Fukuoka World Aquatics Championships kickstarted the remarkable international careers of some now household names in the sport.
With the world’s premier aquatics event having made its return to the southern Japanese city, World Aquatics had the chance to catch up with some of the teenage stars competing at these championships who may just become the next batch of Fukuoka breakout stars.
Maori Pomeroy-Farrell (14) | Diving | Fiji
When Maori Pomeroy-Farrell stepped out onto the diving board at Fukuoka Prefecture Pool on day one of competition at the World Aquatics Championships, he wasn’t just taking the usual ten steps to the edge of the board like he has done time and time again training for these championships.
In fact, he was taking a giant step, a leap even, for his native homeland Fiji and all his surrounding Melanesian and Pacific Island neighbours that have lacked representation in one of the most prominent aquatic disciplines.
In Fukuoka, Pomeroy-Farrell became the first diver to represent Fiji at an international competition – a remarkable achievement for a teenager that doesn’t turn fifteen until the end of this year.
Being the first is something that is not lost on Pomeroy-Farrell, and he explained to World Aquatics on the day of his Men’s 3m Springboard competition that he was channelling all that history and excitement while competing in Fukuoka.
“I wasn’t really nervous, I guess I was more excited, and happy given all the sacrifices me and my family have made,” said Pomeroy-Farrell.
“And to be the first in history to represent my country and compete at my first World Aquatics Championships at fourteen – it’s an awesome experience.”
As stories go, Pomeroy-Farrell’s is one of the more unique tales about getting started in the sport. Born to a Fijian father and Canadian mother, he spent the first ten years of his life growing up in Canada where he first fell in love with the sport.
“I first started out with a club called White Rock Divers in Canada but I didn’t know how to dive and I definitely didn’t know how to swim,” recalled Pomeroy-Farrell.
“So I remember in my first diving lesson I jumped off the board and then had to doggy paddle to the edge of the pool.”
After achieving some local success in his hometown of White Rock, Pomeroy-Farrell’s career took a sharp turn after his coach, Jose de Palma, took the then ten-year-old to watch the Junior Pan-American Games in Victoria, Canada.
“We went to watch and the country that won the diving competition overall was Mexico, so I told my mum I want to go train in Mexico as they are the top of the top,” said Pomeroy-Farrell.
“So fast forward a few months and I was in Guadalajara, Mexico, training with Iván Bautista Vargas for a three-month trial.”
“I wasn’t the best but I think he definitely saw some potential and talent. We returned to Canada for about six months and then me and my mum moved to Mexico.”
It’s a story that is as much about chasing a dream as it is about a family’s sacrifice to allow that dream to be chased.
Pomeroy-Farrell struggles to put into words how grateful he is to his mother Renata who uprooted their life in Canada to pursue the teenager’s love of the sport.
“The move was difficult in the beginning because you are leaving your family and friends, but my mum fully supported me and I’m just so, so grateful,” Pomeroy-Farrell explained.
With his Men’s 1m Springboard and Men’s 3m Springboard events now completed, the Fijian reflected on competing at the World Aquatics Championships with awe and told World Aquatics he is excited about what lies ahead.
“It’s a great experience because this is my first international competition in general so it has been amazing,” said Pomeroy-Farrell.
“I came with an easier dive list this World Championships, and our goal will be to take a stronger series of dives to our next international competition.”
“We’re going to see if we can go to Doha for the World Aquatics Championships in 2024, which is also a selection event for the Paris Olympics, but the real goal is working towards the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.”
Pomeroy-Farrell competed in the Men’s 1m Springboard & Men’s 3m Springboard diving events in Fukuoka.