Riding a wave of hometown support and emotion, Jenny Donnet rose to the occasion to win an unexpected gold in the springboard diving event at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games.
Jenny Donnet reflected on that achievement 35-years-ago today.
By Jenny Donnet
Brisbane 1982 was a fantastic time! It was amazing to watch the city transform in the months leading up to the Games. I felt lucky that my home pool was the Games pool. Even though I was already an Olympian, Brisbane was my first Commonwealth Games and I was certainly not expected to win. However, my coach Barbara Donnet (Olympian and Empire & Commonwealth Games champion) and I planned to shock a few people. So, I just went about my business, quietly excited at how my performance was coming to a peak.
In Moscow 1980, I was not permitted to march in the Opening Ceremony lest my legs be too tired for the next day’s event. I felt like I had missed out, and that was a hard way to go into a competition. This time, I insisted that I march! And what a spectacle the Opening Ceremony was! As we walked into the stadium, I watched our big beautiful flag flying at the head of the team and tears of Aussie pride stung my eyes. I was completely buoyed by the experience and that joy was with me when I awoke the following morning.
My event was the first event on the first day of competition. I was leading after the preliminaries, then continued to lead into the finals – until my second last dive! I flipped it over and received low marks from the judges! The Canadian diver leapt ahead of me by 11 points, then did a great dive to finish her competition! As I walked up to the board to prepare for my last dive, I knew I had to do the best dive I’d ever done. The crowd began chanting my name. I looked up into the stands and saw thousands of people living this last dive with me! It took three attempts from the announcer to calm the spectators. I took a deep breath and thought, “This is my signature dive, a triple twisting 1 ½ somersault. And this is MY event.” I smiled as I began my walk down the board, then jumped, twisted and span. I knew it was good from the moment I left the board and, just before I hit the water, the crowd erupted in a mighty roar!
Under the water, I stilled, shocked, knowing that I had done enough to win. With a quick pump of the fists, I swam to the surface to be assaulted by the deafening cheers of the crowd! Barbara met me at the water’s edge and for a split second, we just stood and looked at each other with silly grins on our faces. Then the tears of joy began as we hugged each other! A whirlwind of activity later, I was on the dais singing the new National Anthem – with a 9000-strong chorus of raucous Aussies! The march back from the dais was again sung by the Aussie chorus – Waltzing Matilda!!!
I was the hometown girl, the first Aussie female to win a gold medal, on the first day! All of my friends had gathered at the hotel across from the Athletes’ Village, so that was where I ended up that evening, standing on a table with the entire crowd singing the National Anthem all over again before shouting me many rounds of lemon squashes!
And that was my job done! I spent the rest of the time supporting my fellow team mates in as many sports as I could go to. That sense of camaraderie is something that never leaves an athlete.
Gold Coast 2018 is shaping up to be an extraordinary Games for our Aussie divers. We have one of the most consistently successful squads at the moment. Selection for the final team will be very tough, but we can be assured that every diver who dons the Aussie colours next year has an extraordinary chance of medalling. I expect we will have a mixture of seasoned competitors and younger up-and-comers who will benefit from the experience of the Games. You can be assured that, regardless of placings, every diver will give everything of themselves to represent Australia at CG2018!