Canadian diving star Despatie all set to make a splash

July 18th, 2008 - 6:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 18 (Xinhua) Canada’s top diver Alexandre Despatie has been tipped as the biggest threat to the Chinese dream team at the Beijing Olympic Games. Though the World Champion did not feature in Canada’s Olympic diving trials in June due to injuries, he has qualified directly for the Beijing Games since the 23-year-old is the best in Canada.

“An Olympic gold medal is needed,” as Despatie once said. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, he managed a silver in the men’s 3 metres springboard and became the first Canadian diver to win an Olympic medal.

At the Beijing Olympics, Despatie, who’s good in both springboard and platform, is no doubt the biggest hope for the Canadian team at the Water Cube.

Despatie visited the Water Cube during the FINA diving world cup in February, when his unsteady performance only awarded him a bronze in the 3m springboard synchro. “I can’t remember the last time when the Chinese divers didn’t win,” said Despatie here.

In April, a foot injury forced the Canadian to rest for four to six weeks, which would affect his preparation for the Olympics.

However, he’s still the biggest rival for the Chinese diving team.

The diving wunderkind started his career at five. And as early as 13, Despatie began to show his talents. He won the gold medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, making him the youngest gold medal winner ever in the history of the Games. The achievement earned Despatie a spot in the 2000 Guinness Book of World Records.

At age 15, Despatie made his Olympic debut in the 2000 Sydney Games. He was too young to compete against veteran Russian Dmitri Sautin and the Chinese divers, but still finished fourth in the 10m platform.

After two years hard training, in the 2003 Barcelona World Championships, the 18-year-old defeated Chinese favourites Tian Liang and Hu Jia to claim victory in the 10m platform. It also made him the first diving world champion in Canada’s history.

In the 2005 Montreal World Championships, Despatie earned gold medals in both the 1m and 3m springboards, becoming the first diver in history to be world champion in all three diving events. His performance in 3m springboard earned the 20-year-old 813.60 points, the first to win over 800 points in the event.

Despatie was almost unseen in 2006 due to injuries, but he came back in the 2007 Melbourne World Championships and took two silvers in the 3m springboard and 3m springboard synchro.

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