With the tenth season of the World Aquatics Scholarship Programme commencing in September, we checked in with some of the scholarship recipients in Fukuoka to learn how the scholarship programme will help them fulfil their potential.
Despite being just 26 years old, New Zealand diver Liam Stone could well and truly be considered a ‘journeyman’ of the sport.
His ten-year international career is an all too common tale of triumph and tragedy, however if his Fukuoka performance is anything to go by there is still another chapter to be written before he calls time on his career.
A recently announced recipient of the industry-leading World Aquatics Scholarship Programme, Stone calls his forthcoming scholarship a ‘game changer.’
“As an athlete from a small sport, from an even smaller country, we don’t get a lot of financial support,” Stone told World Aquatics after his Men’s 3m Springboard preliminary performance.
“Funding your diving career is the biggest challenge we have, so having a scholarship from World Aquatics is a massive game changer.”
As with many athletes competing in sports that don’t always bring the big headlines back home, Stone explains the ongoing challenge of being stuck in a cycle of needing to work to fund his training, but subsequently that time working meaning less time to actually train.
"Having a scholarship from World Aquatics is a massive game changer.”
“You put your work career on the backburner because you need to spend more training, but then that also means less funds to help, so it’s a real juggle,” said Stone.
“So having the scholarship will take a massive load off financially and it will also give me access to some really important resources and support.”
Stone burst onto the international scene back in 2014 with his performance in the Men’s 1m Springboard at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow still standing as a New Zealand national record to this day.
A college career in the United States of America soon followed as Stone relocated to take up a diving scholarship at the University of Tennessee. This stint in the United States also saw the then nineteen year-old win an NCAA National Title and get named South Eastern Conference ‘Diver of the Year’ in 2017.
Stone graduated and returned to his southern pacific homeland and it appeared that his career was on a one-way trajectory upwards as he started to redefine the sport of diving in New Zealand.
That was until tragedy struck, with two back-to-back injuries putting his diving career in jeopardy.
“It started with me breaking my foot, and then two weeks after getting out of my cast, my back went,” explained Stone.
“Suddenly I was off for close to two years with injuries and I started thinking maybe I might not be able to dive again and started looking to build a career out of the pool.”
However the resilient ‘kiwi’ persevered and started the rehabilitation journey that would eventually lead to his return to the World Aquatics Championships in 2023.
“It is something that I need to keep reminding myself because it’s easy to get caught up in it all when you’re at competitions like this,” Stone explained after completing his six dives in the Men’s 3m Springboard event.
“I mean I was as a point where I just wanted to get through daily life without the pain, nevermind actually diving again, so then when I was able to dive I was so much more grateful.”
“So to be here and loving the sport again, it’s kind of let me rediscover my passion.”
The ‘Fukuoka Four’ with Liam
#1 - Swimming Idol
My half-brother was a diver for Canada and so he massively inspired me to start in the sport, and then as I was coming through the junior ranks, he was competing at a top level so I was able to tap into him as a mentor.
#2 - Favourite Pool
I really enjoyed the 2014 Diving World Cup pool in Shanghai (Oriental Sports Center). That was my first world event and I remember that pool had such a cool atmosphere. It was half indoor, half outdoor, so it was definitely one of my favourites.
#3 - Pump-Up Song
Such a mix! I tend to have more of a relaxed chill kind of music straight after I dive to try to down regulate, and then before my dive really anything that’s upbeat to get me pumped up.
#4 – Post Competition Plans
We’ve got a couple of days here and then we’re actually off to Europe and will spend a little bit of time training in Scotland before making our way to Berlin for the World Cup series finals.
About the World Aquatics Scholarship Programme
Launched in 2014 with the aim of increasing the level of aquatics athletes in countries around the globe, the World Aquatics Scholarship Programme has just announced the scholarship recipient athletes for its tenth season. The main goal of the World Aquatics Scholarships Programme is to identify and create an optimal training environment for athletes aspiring to represent their countries