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Australia’s divers believe their home pool advantage may just provide the “X factor” when four days of Commonwealth Games diving competition begins today at the Optus Aquatic Centre.
The Aussies have taken full advantage of the Centre for competitions and camps over the last three to four years.
And according to Team Manager Michael Hetherington his team will be ready for whatever the competition and the weather conditions toss up.
Four years ago in Glasgow the Australians won two gold, three silver and three bronze medals – finishing third behind England (4-3-3-10) and Canada (3-2-2-7).
But the Aussies, despite the shock retirement last week of platform diver Taneka Kovchenko due to a spinal cord injury they have re-grouped with the inclusion of WA youngster Teju Williamson who will dive off 10m and join four-time Games star Melissa Wu on 10m platform tonight.
But it’s the preparation, the expertise and team spirit that the Australians will be relying on over the next four days and nights as they look to improve on their eight-medal haul from four years ago.
“We have been coming here to the Gold Coast for three to four years now thanks to extra funding from the Commonwealth Games Association and Diving Australia and it has made a world of difference,” said Hetherington.
“The team was here for a camp specifically to dive under lights not long ago and already having dealt with that makes a difference.
“And we came together as a team again last tonight to discuss the next four days and nights.
“We will be ready for whatever the weather conditions toss up – it can get windy as it showed last night, and was quite blustery but it’s the same for everyone and we will be ready for anything.”
The Australians will have two combinations in the 10m Synchro tonight with Annarose Keating and Brittany O’Brien joining Wu and Williamson and the Australians will face some stiff opposition from both Canada and Malaysia – a diving nation very much on the move.
England’s Olympic champion Tom Daley has withdrawn from the 10m individual but he will still team up with partner Daniel Goodfellow on 10m Synchro which will see Australia’s defending champion Domonic Bedggood team up with another former gymnast, 24-year-old Declan Stacey from Wahroonga in NSW, who is coached by the master himself Chava Sobrino in the NSWIS program.
Southport local Bedggood, under National coach Adrian Hinchcliffe, is one of the most experienced divers on the team and it’s Stacey who has come in to replace his Glasgow gold medal partner, Olympic golden boy Matthew Mitcham who will be at the Games commentating with another former medallist Dean Pullar.
Bedggood will be joined by four other members of the team with Games experience: James Connor (Delhi 2010), Anabelle Smith (2010, Glasgow 2014), world champion Maddison Keeney (2014) Esther Qin (2014), and Georgia Sheehan (2014).
Qin won gold on three-metre springboard in Glasgow and will again line up to defend her gold medal alongside Smith and Keeney.
Sheehan was the youngest member of the entire Australian team in Glasgow, at just 15 years of age and will dive off one-metre with Qin and the pair will team up on three-metre springboard. Keeney is the reigning 1-metre world champion and will be hoping to add a Commonwealth Games triumph.
The team boasts 10 previous Commonwealth Games medals including three gold medallist.
Of the 14 strong team three are based in US colleges and the remainder are split between Diving Australia’s Adelaide Performance Pillar (2 athletes); Sydney Performance Pillar (4 athletes), Melbourne Performance Pillar (2 athletes) and Brisbane Performance Pillar (3 athletes).
The full team, with events, is:
Melissa Wu (10m, 10m Synchro with Teju Williamson)
Teju Williamson (10m, 10m Synchro with Melissa Wu)
Brittany O’Brien (10m, 10m Synchro with Anna Rose Keating)
Anna Rose Keating (10m Synchro with Brittany O’Brien)
Maddison Keeney (1m, 3m, 3m Synchro with Anabelle Smith)
Anabelle Smith (3m, 3m Synchro with Maddison Keeney)
Esther Qin (1m, 3m, 3m Synchro with Georgia Sheehan)
Georgia Sheehan (1m, 3m Synchro with Esther Qin)
Domonic Bedggood (3m Synchro with Matthew Carter, 10m, 10m Synchro with Declan Stacey)
Declan Stacey (10m, 10m Synchro with Domonic Bedggood)
Matthew Barnard (10m)
Matthew Carter (1m, 3m, 3m Synchro with Domonic Bedggood)
Kurtis Mathews (1m, 3m, 3m Synchro with James Connor)
James Connor (1m, 3m, 3m Synchro with Kurtis Mathews)