Splash! judge Leon: ‘I was right to criticise Diversity’s Perri’

With the grand final of Splash! coming up on Saturday we caught up with judge Leon Taylor – a man who knows a thing or two about diving after picking up a silver medal at the Olympics in 2004 – to talk about this year’s series…

Have you enjoyed this year’s series?
“Yeah, I have because I was taken ill during last year’s show. My appendix decided it had had enough of me and perforated just after the first episode, so I spent the whole series convalescing.I was rushed to hospital, my appendix was removed and I had blood poisoning – so series one was amazing to be part of but I was doing my best just to survive! So it’s been amazing to actually get my teeth into the show this year…”

How do you think the show has progressed this year?
“Well, the first series was a big gamble. We didn’t know what the public would make of it and we were learning as we were going along. So we just went all guns blazing for the second series, the public know what to expect and the whole thing has been a joy.”

Are you getting on well with the other judges or are you arguing as soon as the cameras are off you?
“Ha ha, no we get on really well. Me, Andy and Tom have been good friends for a few years and Jo’s becoming a great friend as well.”

Does it annoy you when Andy calls you Mr Picky?
“It does a bit because I’m the one getting picked on! Me and Andy have both been in the sport, so we know it inside out, but we have to take into consideration the difficulty of the contestants’ dive and where they’ve come from – seeing their training video and the physical and emotional pain they’ve been going through and the rest of it. There’s always a difference in opinion, which is great. That’s what we’re there to do: to call it as we see it.

Diversity star Perri Kiely is hot favourite to take the title on Saturday night, have you been impressed with his development across the series?
“I have because his first dive was a somersault into the water. I thought that someone of that talent could do better and I said so – and I got booed by the audience and hammered on twitter! He has an advantage because he’s 18 and he’s very acrobatic. The disadvantage is that he’s always used to landing on his feet or being caught by someone, both of which are useless if you’re performing dives! So he almost has to unlearn some of the skills he’s developed over the years, but over the last few weeks he’s really stepped it up. Hopefully he’s saved something for the final!”

Splash! The Final is on Saturday February 15 at 7.20pm on ITV.