A HOST of celebrities are taking the plunge in new reality show Splash! – as they learn how to dive.
Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley is training the famous faces, ranging from Towie’s Joey Essex to comedian Omid Djalili and ski-jumping icon Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards.
In the show, the contestants will try to make their finest dives as experts rate their efforts and viewers vote for their favourites.
Hosted by Vernon Kay, the likes of model Caprice Bourret and Sugababe Jade Ewen will be forced to find out whether they sink or swim as they don their cossies and take the leap of faith.
The famous faces will need a mix of determination, drive and daredevil stunts to perform dives, which build up to the dreaded high board. The five-parter starts on January 5 on ITV1 at 7.15pm.
Here TV Biz’s LAURA CAROE meets some of the stars hoping to make a Splash!
Diving brings back terrible memories of fight for my life in tsunami
Says JAKE CANUSO
BENIDORM star Jake Canuso has revealed how training for Splash! has brought back horror memories of how he nearly DROWNED in the 2004 tsunami.
He was holidaying in Thailand, at the paradise resort of Golden Buddha, when the freak wave thundered ashore.
Jake, who plays Spanish barman Mateo in ITV1 sitcom Benidorm, said: “I’d not really thought about the tsunami in recent years… until I started the diving training.
“The pool is quite deep and when I dive in I feel like I can’t get to the top quickly enough.
“That’s the memory from the tsunami, which I have had to overcome. I do have enough time and air.
“As you dive, you get about two seconds of thought and I didn’t realise you could think so much in two seconds.”
Recalling the moment the tidal wave battered his Thai holiday isle, Jake revealed how he got TRAPPED underwater beneath a fallen tree.
He said: “The whole ocean rose up and I ran off the beach and climbed a tree.
“But the ocean swallowed up the island. The houses collapsed and there were roofs passing by me in the water.
“Planks of wood started getting stuck in my tree and I knew it was going to fall. It then got half-uprooted and fell, pinning me to the ground across my leg. I tried to get my leg out as my air slowly went and I could see things floating above me.
“It was quite surreal. It was beautiful. The sky was blue, the sun shining and it was silent.
“But a few more seconds and I would have been dead.”
Luckily, the tree then shifted in the deluge and Jake was thrown to the surface, without as much as a scratch. But his ordeal was far from over as he clung to the tree for survival.
The ex-dancer said: “I had gone from a surreal sense of being on my own to belonging again and fighting for survival.
“The island went from a mad whirlpool to the water just disappearing in seconds. Fish were flapping on the ground, there wasn’t a house standing, you couldn’t see any paths.
“Traumatically, it then took me an hour to find my sister — and she was really hurt. A restaurant had collapsed on her and she had been washed out to sea…
“She was so in shock, she stood in the middle of a rocky area screaming and shaking. I slapped her and told her to pull herself together.”
As the depth of the devastation became clear and with fears of further walls of water flooding in, the survivors tied themselves to trees on top of a hill overnight.
After making it through the night, Jake and scores of Thais spent a week looking for the missing, as workers and volunteers brought dead bodies in bin liners to the temples.
Despite the horrific disaster, which left hundreds of thousands dead, Jake insisted: “The tsunami changed my life but in a good way. It’s sad to say but sometimes we need something traumatic to happen so we can grasp what’s important in life.
“The tsunami is not really the foreground of my life. I’ve coped with it well but there are certain moments that trigger memories, for just a split second.”
Jake has been dieting as he prepares to strip down to his trunks for Splash! when it kicks off on Saturday — and admits he will also go in for some male grooming.
He said: “I think I will be forced to shave my legs and chest — my friends and family say I have to do it properly.”
But tsunami flashbacks aside, he reckons the pressure of the dive contest is also terrifying.
He said: “The fear is overwhelming. You get a dry mouth. I don’t sleep at night. I have dreams that I’m diving. I see myself do a nice dive then one goes really wrong and I jolt up out of bed.
“Your whole body aches from head to toe after training. Every muscle around your ribs is just bruised.”
But Jake said of the contestants: “We all have different fears we are trying to conquer, we all want to achieve something.
“Diving is different from sitting in a jungle or a Big Brother house. You are learning something we have huge respect for — about the work that athletes do, day in and day out.”
Jade: ‘I’m facing my fear’
SUGABABE Jade Ewen, pictured above and top, has revealed she ignored a stark warning in a bid to become a superstar diver – after her mum became convinced she would drown.
The singer admitted she has never been taught how to swim and has a phobia of deep water. Her dad is blind and her mum is partially sighted, which meant that beach holidays were not the time to learn.
Jade said: “I can’t really swim, I’ve only just learnt. I was never taught to swim – I went to a performing arts school so we didn’t have PE. As an adult, I’d blag it and sit by the pool and watch people swim and try to copy.
“But I’d never ever been in deep water as I hate it and it terrifies me. My mum always told me, ‘Don’t go in the sea or you’ll drown.’ I’ve grown up thinking I’ll drown if I go in the water. I can’t get it out of my head.”
Former Eurovision contestant Jade, who used to date EastEnder Ricky Norwood added she was told by show bosses to wear a bikini, despite fears of a wardrobe malfunction in front of cameras.
The sexy star said: “They obviously thought it would make good TV if mine came off.
“I’m hoping they put me in a one-piece, though, as I don’t want the bottoms coming off and the whole thing being caught on underwater cameras. But maybe that’s how you get the votes!
“Swimming is the biggest thing in my life that I’m scared of and it limits me on holiday. It doesn’t matter about the show – I’ll be able to take advantage of a skill for life.”
Hel wants rid of belly flop
FUNNYGIRL Helen Lederer has admitted the secret behind her taking part in Splash! – she wants to tackle her middle-age bulge.
The comedy star is hoping the challenge, which has caused several sleepless nights and endless nerves, will help her lose a few pounds at the start of 2013.
Helen said: “I try to do as little as possible, being the oldest. I walk slowly, I spend a lot of time in the loo hiding.
“I can’t even think about my old body walking up the stairs and taking off my dressing gown. But I’m hoping it might make me go off my food, which would be brilliant.”
The Absolutely Fabulous star added she was concerned that her dives may be more belly-flopping than jaw-dropping.
But while she admitted she wasn’t in the show to win, the blonde insisted she wasn’t going to become the token comedy act.
Helen – who also confessed she takes comfort from being surrounded by hunks Jake Canuso and Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley – said: “I know I’m not going to be good, so that’s not my journey. People do laugh when I say I am diving. Me and diving just don’t go together.
“While I’m well known for my comedy roles, there won’t be any time to bring comedy to this. I have to take each day as it comes, as there is no running away.
“The three-metre dive is everything to me, that was my mountain. That took an hour-and-a-bit. It was like a horse refusing to jump.”
Every leap’s a lottery
TELLY beauty Jenni Falconer has described her sessions on the diving board as similar to a free colonic irrigation.
The National Lottery host, who insisted she is not “body confident” since having a baby, revealed she was left flushed out when she landed bottoms up.
Jenni said: “I have done a few face flops and I did an eyeball flop. It was like that Tango advert where a guy is slapped.
“Another time I did a very spectacular thing and the water went to places it shouldn’t go.
“I was quite shocked – it was like a free colonic.”
The star revealed she will be working closely with the wardrobe lady to make sure she is properly covered up during the live shows.
Married mum-of-one Jenni, who injured her shoulder during training, said: “I’m not confident with my body. In fact, the most body confident I’ve been was when I was pregnant.
“The costume lady mentioned bikinis and cut-out swimsuits, but I’m very hesitant to commit.
“I don’t want to wear a granny swimming costume but I don’t want to expose myself on live telly either.
“The nation just doesn’t want to see that.
“Maybe I could wear an all-in-one or a burkini like Nigella Lawson.”
– SPLASH! coach Tom Daley expects plenty of “smacks and wallops” as the celebs show off their dives.
The Olympic bronze medallist also thinks one or two contestants may lose their nerve under pressure. He said: “Some of them could freeze – and if you freak out, you freak out on live TV. That’s a pretty daunting prospect.”
Tom added: “People think diving’s easy because divers who’ve done it for a long time make it look like that – but it is very far from easy. It is a very psychological sport. Half the battle is getting over the fear factor.”