Aussie diver retires on eve of GC2018

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CGA has today announced the inclusion of Brisbane-based 10m platform diver Teju Williamson into the diving team for Gold Coast 2018 following the sudden and heart-breaking retirement of Taneka Kovchenko.

Kovchenko, who late last year won gold in the Diving Grand Prix on the Gold Coast with Melissa Wu in the 10m Synchro and finished fifth with Wu in the same event at last year’s Budapest World Championships, announced the news to Diving Australia last week following neurological scans in Adelaide.

Games team diving manager and Manager, Performance Services and Logistics at Diving Australia Michael Hetherington confirmed the news today.

“It’s devastating news for Taneka who had been suffering from headaches for a little while before a series of scans showed a congenital problem around her skull and brain and her neurologist had no alternative but to advise her to retire from diving,” Hetherington said.

“Our hearts go out to her and her family who are so heavily involved in diving and on the eve of the Games – it is heart- breaking for Taneka and her family and our team.

“We wish her all the best and we know she will be cheering for the team as much as we will all be thinking of her.”

Kovchenko posted the news of her retirement on Instagram saying in part: “Since the end of last year I have had chronic headaches and a lot of pain in my neck.

“We decided it was time to get it check out last month so I had a few scans done, not thinking much off it. From the first scan we found I have a fairly common genetic formation where my scull formed before my brain finished growing which seemed to pose no immediate problems.

“But my doctor wanted to send me to the neurologist as this can sometimes cause a build up of fluid in the spinal cord.

“I had a few more scans done in flexion and extension of my neck which found my neck is hyper flexible and my C1 and C2 are compressing my spinal cord and the bottom of my brain when in these positions.

“The neurologist and Doctors where very clear that if a dive was to go wrong that the result would be being a ventilated quadriplegic.

“This was a super scary moment. I thought of every scenario to try and continue diving till at-least the end of this season however the risks highly out weighed the options of continuing to dive and sadly had to make the heart breaking decision to stop diving.”

Kovchenko said she has had an amazing 14 years diving chasing her dream of representing Australia.

“I am grateful for every experience and opportunity I have been given. I am leaving the sport as an athlete proud of my accomplishments and with so many life skills,” she said, thanking Diving Australia, the South Australian Sports Institute and the entire diving community.

“I have learnt so much from this sport including courage, determination, inner strength, persistence, confidence, self belief, to aspire, support and empathize with teammates even if it’s a primarily individual sport. This may be the end of my diving career but I’m not going to be a stranger to the sport, I’m still in love with it.”

Officials have been able to bring 19-year-old Brisbane-based Western Australian, Williamson into the team at the last minute and she joined the group in their Brisbane training camp over the weekend and arrived into the Athletes Village yesterday, attending last night’s Team Reception at The Star.

Williamson will contest both the 10m springboard and join four-time Commonwealth Games star Melissa Wu in the 10m Synchro.

The pair have only had one training session together and will start training again today for competition that starts in the second week of the Games.

Williamson said on Instagram: “So blessed with the opportunity to step up last minute and compete for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and a Special shout-out to Taneka Kovchenko for her resilience and positivity, we are all so proud of you and wish you all the best”

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