Jane Figueiredo, born in Zimbabwe, is currently the Head Diving Coach at the High Performance Centre in London (the 2012 Olympic Pool) and coach to Tom Daley, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and Commonwealth Games Champion.
Jane has had a long and successful career in diving, having been at the Olympic Games herself as an athlete, followed by a coaching career in the NCAA and for two countries in the Olympic Games.
Figueiredo was previously the head coach of the diving programme at the University of Houston and officially started her new role in mid-January.
Figueiredo is well known to Alexei Evangulov, the performance director of British diving. Evangulov, who came to Britain in 2009, led the Russian diving team the previous summer at the Beijing Olympics, where Figueiredo’s athletes, Yulia Pakhalina and Anastasia Pozdniakova, won silver in the three-metre synchronised springboard event. Figueiredo’s history with the Olympics is colourful, to say the least. She was born in Zimbabwe and competed for the country of her birth at the 1982 world championships.
Two years later, Figueiredo dived at the 1984 Los Angeles Games for Portugal due to her eligibility for the European nation through the origins of her father’s family. In 1996, she was coach of the British diving team at the Atlanta Olympics, an inauspicious period for the sport in this country.
Yet she has excelled as head diving coach at the University of Houston, the institution she graduated from with a degree in hotel and restaurant management in 1987.
‘Coaching is just in my blood,’ says Figueiredo. ‘This is just where my forte is. I think it really is my calling.’ But she adds, tellingly: ‘Most coaches in any sport live and breathe and eat their sport. I actually don’t. I do that when I am at the pool – but there is life after diving. There has to be.’
People in Houston tell stories of her cancelling practice to let her diving students play beach volleyball. On other occasions, she has been known to simply take them out for a coffee to keep things fresh and fun. Her colleague, swimming head coach Augie Busch, explains what makes Figueiredo tick. ‘Jane is a very passionate and energetic teacher,’ he says. ‘Her divers know how much she cares about them. What she does transcends way beyond practice time.’
At the 2000 Sydney Games, Figueiredo was the coach of Russia’s Pakhalina and Ilynia, who captured gold medals in the women’s 3-meter synchronized diving. Pakhalina and Ilyina placed second and third, respectively, at the World Championships in Japan in July 2001, with Pakhalina taking second in synchronized diving at the 2001 Goodwill Games.
Figueiredo was the Russian diving coach at the 2004 Athlens Olympic Games, where she guided former Cougar Pakhalina and the other Russian divers. Pakhalina and Vera Ilyina combined to win a Silver Medal in synchronized diving, while Pakhalina captured a Bronze Medal with her performance on the 3-meter springboard.
During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she guided one of her current student-athlete divers Anastasia Pozdniakova and Pakhalina to a silver medal in the 3-meter synchronized springboard event. Pakhalina also took silver in the 3-meter springboard event.