By David McPherson
Melissa Wu doesn’t just climb to the top of the 10 metre tower, jump off and make things up on the way down.
A power of work goes into pulling off the seemingly-effortless twists, turns and tumbles.
Wu took time out of her hectic schedule to give an insight into what the week of an elite diver looks like.
The Early Mornings
Unfortunately for Wu, medals don’t come easy. That means plenty of early rises.
“We train early in the mornings so we do 6 am to 8 am. Usually that’s either dry land or our strength training in the gym. In the afternoons we train three hours in the water so that’s all our diving stuff,” she says.
Wu was still juggling school commitments when she competed at her first Commonwealth Games in 2006 as a 13-year-old. That meant there was no way around the morning session.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel however for the now 25-year-old.
“We’re actually in the process, us older group, of changing our training around a little bit so we sleep in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings,” she says.
“We come to the pool a bit earlier in the afternoon, do our water session first and then our gym session after that – which is really good.”
Training in the Water
When it’s time to hit the pool, Wu varies the dives she pulls off.
“We do our competition dives but then we also do a lot of basics just to maintain technique. Sometimes when you practice a lot of your hard dives your technique slips back a bit, ” she says.
“Even though I do platform I train a bit of springboard as well.”
The workload on the 10m platform can reach dizzying heights.
“Normally on the days that you’re doing the harder dives the numbers that you do will be less overall. If you do a day when you’re doing a lot of basics you’ll get through hundreds of dives pretty much.”
Training on Land
Wu doesn’t spend all day climbing the stairs of the diving tower.
“Our dry stuff is similar to gymnastics training so there’s a lot of stretching and stuff and there’s a lot of abdominal work that’s specific for diving.”
“We also do like a lot of summersaults on mats and on the ground to practice our take-offs for the water,” Wu says.
“We do trampoline and also we have a springboard into the foam pit so we do a lot of pit training as well.”
Hitting the gym is also important for a diver to stay at the top of their game.
“Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings we’re all in the gym. Saturday we do a bit of a combination of water, dryland and gym. Tuesday and Thursday are just specifically strength training,” she says.
“We do a lot of legs – we just do a lot of general strength work. We don’t do anything too specific in diving – other than probably legs because we need to be able to generate power to create rotation.”
Once the strength groundwork is laid down, it’s all about building that power.
“I’m coming into a new season now so we’ll start with a lot of strength and fitness first and then we’ll build that up. When we get closer to comp season we do more power-type stuff instead.”
The Extra Yard
Such a heavy schedule takes its toll on the body, so Wu does what she can to stay healthy.
“I do a lot of stretching now before and after training because I’m older just in my own time to try and recover better and not get as injured during training,” she says.
“We have massage once a week and physio once a week so that’s pretty important to recover. Everyone’s always got niggles – usually a few of us always have one or two main injuries and there are always niggles that pop up.”
“It’s really good to stay on top of that and make sure you’re not training on injuries or your injuries aren’t getting worse.”
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R and R
When Wu finally gets a moment to herself, she’s all about resting and recuperating for the busy week ahead.
“We have Saturday afternoon and Sunday off as rest days so not too much rest. That’s how diving’s always been – that’s how we’ve done it my whole diving career.”
The Sydney-sider takes her weekends as an opportunity to unwind.
“Saturdays I’m usually pretty tired from the week. Sometimes I’ll do something with friends or something on a Saturday night or with my boyfriend but nothing too full-on,” she says.
“Sunday I usually like to go out out for coffee or something – just really relax on Sundays. In summer I go to the beach or something and just pretty much have a relaxing day.”
The workload doesn’t let up in the lead-up to competition either.
“We don’t taper too much in diving pretty much because when we go to comps we usually have a good day of travel and then we have a few days of training where we do a lot of diving,” Wu says.
“Once we’re away at comp we don’t do any strength work or anything like that so pretty much when we’re at comp is pretty much like tapering for us.”
“Leading up to comps, if anything, we’re probably at the peak of volume and intensity of everything that we’re doing in the gym and in the pool.”
The Mind Game
Elite sport is all about finding an edge over your competition, so Wu doesn’t forget the mental side of the sport.
“Pretty much it’s just trying to get my mind in the optimal state and deal with competitions and deal with the emotions and everything around comp as well,” she says.
Wu catches up with her psychologist to make sure her mind is clear when she climbs to the top of the tower.
“I do it every now and then usually leading up to comps. We’ll definitely do that leading up to the next competition season.”
“Usually I’ll see him regularly throughout the season to debrief on previous comps or if there’s other things that might influence my comp or state of mind during a comp that are external factors – we work on those sorts of things as well.”
Wu is gearing up for a crack at her fourth Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next year.
Her road to GC2018 will lead her to Southport in December this year for the Commonwealth Games Selection Trials.