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Despatie returns bigger, stronger and just as determined

23 July 2002

Platform divers at the Games will look down on the water from the height of two double decker buses placed on top of each other.

Diving boards at Manchester 2002

When they then launch themselves into the air to perform their aerial gymnastics, they will have barely two seconds to perform their routine before hitting the water.

And Alexandre Despatie is among the world’s most brilliant of divers from the 10m platform. Yet the defending Commonwealth champion is still at high school in Montreal, having won gold at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games at the age of just 13.

“It’s different this time,” Despatie said after training on Tuesday. “There are more expectations, of course, more pressure, and I have more experience too.”

When Despatie won in Kuala Lumpur, he became the youngest ever Commonwealth Games gold medallist. Now 17, he is 7 inches taller and around 25kg heavier than in 1998, with the defined musculature of a boxer. But he also possesses affirmation of his world-class status with a silver medal from last year’s World Championships, fourth place at the Sydney Olympics and by winning the world junior title.

“I never go into a competition looking for a particular result or a medal, I just aim to do my best, make sure I work on certain elements in my routine and see what comes from that.”

“Things are different from four years ago, of course. As I have grown, I have had a lot of adapting to do. I am a lot stronger now and get more height off the boards, and that all helps with my routine.” Despatie dives in all three competitions here from Thursday, 25 July to Saturday, 27 July.

The livewire of the Canadian diving team, he rates his rivals from Australia, Robert Newbery and Matthew Helm, and England’s Leon Taylor and Peter Waterfield as the biggest threats to his chance of retaining his title in the 10-metre platform. Despatie is the only diver to attempt the four-and-half forward somersault: it could be the turning point of the competition.

“They are all good divers, and any one of us could win it,” Despatie said, with the sort of smile that showed he has no intention of relinquishing his title easily.

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