By Duncan Mackay

Matthew Mitcham_with_Olympic_gold_medal_Beijing_2008February 13 - Australia's diving team, including Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham (pictured), will prepare for London 2012 in Leeds, it has been announced. 

Diving Australia are planning to sending a group of approximately nine divers to train at the Aquatics Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport after choosing Leeds as the preferred location to complete their final preparations in July before heading to London.

The squad coming to Leeds is expected to feature Mitcham, the reigning Olympic 10-metre champion and a major rival of Britain's own gold medal hope Tom Daley.

Mitcham shot to prominence when he caused a sensation at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing by recording the highest single-dive score in Olympic history in the final round to snatch the gold medal and in doing so prevented China from claiming a clean sweep of all the diving gold medals at the Games.

The 23-year-old from Brisbane became an overnight superstar in his homeland as a result, even having a stamp produced in his honour to celebrate his achievement of becoming the first Australian male Olympic diving champion since Paris 1924.

Mitcham claimed four silver medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, losing out to Daley in the 10m platform event, but was forced to miss last year's World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai due to back and abdominal injuries.

Now recovered, he is heading back to form as he begins his qualifying campaign for London.

John Charles_Centre_for_Sport_diving_board

The deal is the latest coup for Leeds, who have also signed deals with the diving teams from Russia and United States to train at the John Charles Centre for Sport (pictured).

There will also be athletes from Serbia, Canada and Holland coming to Leeds ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, while a team of approximately 300 athletes and officials from China will be using the city as its European pre-Games training base.

"This is more fantastic news for Leeds to attract another major sporting power in the form of the Australia diving squad," said Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council executive member for leisure.

"Everyone knows what a competitive sporting nation Australia is, so for them to choose Leeds as their ideal base to train before the Games is a massive compliment to our facilities and our city.

"We very much look forward to welcoming them in July."

Besides Mitcham, also likely to be in the squad coming to Leeds is 32-year-old Loudy Wiggins, who is attempting to qualify for a fourth Olympic Games after coming out of retirement.

The bronze medallist at both the Sydney Games in 2000 and Athens in 2004 opted to end her career after a calf injury forced her to miss Beijing, but after three years away from the sport her return has started well with victory in the Australian Open Championships in December.

Other members of the squad likely to be coming to Leeds include Alexandra Croak, who made history in 2010 by becoming the first Australian to win gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in two different sports, having secured victory in the 2002 Games in Manchester as a gymnast.

The 27-year-old from Sydney is also a dual Olympian having competed in her home Olympics in 2000 in gymnastics before switching to diving in 2003 and going on to compete at the 2008 Beijing Games as a diver.

Croak also claimed a silver medal at last year's World Aquatics Championships in China.

Melissa Wu_in_action
Also with Olympic experience is Melissa Wu (pictured), who became the youngest-ever Australian Olympic diver and secured a superb silver medal in Beijing at just 16 years of age.

Coupled with her previous success at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games - where she won a silver medal aged 13 - this meant Wu had completed the clean sweep of medalling at every major international championship - all by the age of 16.

Her medal success has since continued with gold and silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and silver at last year's World Championships.

"We are delighted to have reached agreement with Leeds City Council for the use of the Aquatics Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games," said Mary Godden, the chief executive of Diving Australia.

"The Aquatics Centre is a world-class venue and the Australia team is looking forward to using Leeds as a 'home base' during our build-up for the Olympics."

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