Statham was born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, the son of Eileen (née Yates), a dancer, and Barry Statham, a street seller and lounge singer. He moved to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where he initially chose not to follow his father's career working the local market stalls, instead practicing martial arts. He grew up with football player Vinnie Jones, alongside whom he would later act. Jones introduced him to football, and Statham went on to play for the local grammar school (1978–1983), which he had attended since the age of 11, a passion that he shared with diving. He practiced daily in perfecting his diving techniques, and was a member of Britain's National Diving Squad for twelve years. Statham competed for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
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