On the 10-year anniversary of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, diving star Sharleen Stratton reflects on her second Commonwealth Games experience and how she coped with the challenges Delhi presented.
At the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, Australia’s diving team was looking to continue the nation’s successful history on the springboards and the platform. Divers representing the green and gold had medalled at every Commonwealth Games leading into Delhi, the 19th Games, and with a team featuring Diving Australia champions such as Matthew Mitcham and Melissa Wu it was a stellar squad.
One of the leaders of the squad was Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sharleen Stratton.
Knowing she had met the selection criteria at the Australian trials, Stratton eagerly anticipated selection to her second Commonwealth Games, and the opportunity of taking part in the new experience of competing in the Indian capital.
“The events’ night following the trials, the team was named, knowing I had reached the right criteria I was hoping to be selected to my second Commonwealth Games,” Stratton recalled.
“I had never been to India before, so I didn’t really know what to expect… I was told a few things beforehand, like to pack your Weet-Bix and your muesli bars, so I had all that packed in my bag that I was grateful for.”
The Games proved to indeed be a new experience for Stratton and the rest of her diving teammates, who quickly learned it would be a multi-sport event like none other.
“All of the girls in the diving team stayed together in the village, I roomed with Olivia (Wright)… I am pretty sure, I can’t remember it’s been that long,” Stratton said with a laugh.
“It was awesome being in Delhi, but walking into the village was unlike anything I had experienced before… some of the village was only half finished, and some of the buildings near our apartment block were still being worked on.
“I remember there was a big hole in the ground outside of our apartment block which wasn’t quite finished yet, so it was all barricaded off.”
It wasn’t just outside which provided something out of the ordinary for the team but inside too, where the apartment complexes offered another unique challenge to the squad.
“Funny story, the front door to our apartment block had broken, so the whole team was having to go out through the kitchen window and then walk around the apartment block to get out,” Stratton said.
“Then we ended up breaking the kitchen bench… it was a very interesting experience… very memorable.”
Sharelle Stratton in competition during the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games. (CGA Archives)
However, once the team reached the SPM Swimming Pool Complex, it was back to the familiar experiences and routine all the divers knew, and for Stratton it was a case of being focussed on her goals.
“Being my second Commonwealth Games, and after my first Olympics [at Beijing 2008], I was much more experienced, and when the second opportunity came around at the Commonwealth Games, I was going in aiming for a gold medal and to medal in my events,” Stratton said.
“But my main goal was to win a gold medal.”
Stratton would be competing in three events, the 1m springboard, the 3m springboard, but Stratton’s first event was pairing with Briony Cole for the 3m springboard synchronised event.
The duo had won the gold medal in the event at the Melbourne 2006 Games and were looking to retain their title.
“Bree had moved up to the AIS centre in Brisbane in 2006 [ahead of the Melbourne 2006 Games], so we had been training together for a long time, but Bree was injured heading in the Delhi Games, so we were thinking it was going to be her only event,” Stratton recalled.
“So we trained really hard to try and win a medal and end on a high.”
The pair led after the first of five dives, but as the competition went along the Aussie divers were surpassed by their Canadian counterparts who went on to claim the gold, leaving the Australian pair with the silver, something that became a trend for the Games.
After Alexandra Croak and Melissa Wu won a gold medal in the women’s 10m synchronised platform on the opening day of the meet, the Australian team would go on to win seven consecutive silver medals, with Canadian divers winning five of the events.
On the last day of competition, Stratton was looking to end the silver streak in her pet event the 3m springboard.
“In my mind heading into the Games, the individual 3m springboard is what I focussed on the most,” Stratton said.
“I was aiming for the gold medal but like any competition you’re heading into you have to leave those thoughts behind and just do your best.
“Going in I was really thinking about all the preparations [I had done] and being in the moment and knowing that I had done all of the hard work leading up to the competition.
“I probably had the best competition of my career.”
Sharelle Stratton being congratulated on her gold medal win. (CGA Archives)
The 3m springboard was going to be a battle between Stratton and Canadian diver Jennifer Abel.
The Canadian had already bested Stratton in her two previous events, but in the 3m, the Queenslander was looking to get one back on the Canuck. However, trailing after the first two dives, with three remaining, Stratton called on her experience to focus on her routine, her composure and herself.
“I really try not to pay attention about what is going around me,” Stratton said.
“My routine is to focus on my own dive and I don’t like to follow along with where I am on the scoreboard during a competition because I feel like it takes away from my focus and attention.
“I was diving behind Jennifer throughout the competition and she was my closest competitor and I did notice that she missed one of her dives.
“I knew I was doing a really good competition and I knew I just had to focus on myself, and I tried not to get too caught up in what else was going on.”
Sharelle Stratton on the podium at the Delhi 2010- Games. (CGA Archives)
The strategy worked. Stratton nailed her final three dives and surged to the gold medal, her second career gold medal and her third medal of the Games.
“That gold medal and the look on my coach’s face, a very memorable feeling coming from my final dive, I knew I had done a good one,” Stratton said.
“It was probably my best competition… I will treasure that moment forever.”
Now 10 years on, Sharleen Stratton now Sharleen Wren, is married with two children, and reflects fondly on her experiences at the Games in India and talks of her returning to the sport she is still passionate about.
“The whole experience of being in Delhi is a memorable experience,” Wren said.
“It has gone so fast.
“It has been eight years away from the sport, but I am now undertaking a diving coaching course, I’ve had my children, and now I want to do something I am passionate about.”
And for those taught by the two-time Commonwealth Games diver in the future, will surely be taught the poise and composure needed to win gold, and how to climb through a kitchen window if necessary too.