I competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the 10-metre synchro diving with Tonia Couch. We have known each other since we were seven, so being in sync wasn’t too hard to master: we were naturally in tune, we always know what each other is thinking. At the Games we were both nervous from the pressure of being centre stage, ten metres up with 17,500 pairs of eyes on us.
When the millions, maybe billions, of people tune into the Olympic Games this summer, they will again be watching athletes at the peak of their powers performing feats of athleticism that will awe and inspire. What they won’t see, however, are the crushing lows, elating highs, and everything else in between, which it takes to reach sport’s incredible showpiece. I’d be surprised if any athlete makes it to the Games in Rio without experiencing ups and downs and having to fight through battles. I know that’s going to be the case for me.
The challenges started in June 2015 when I was diagnosed with stress fractures in both shins. This injury has been very hard to deal with physically and mentally.
After competing at last summer’s World Championships, I took the difficult decision to give myself a few months out to allow my body the time it needed to recover fully so I’d be in the best possible shape for the 2016 season.
What I hadn’t bargained for, though, was that the synchro team of myself and Tonia was going to be broken up, and that another diver would take my place after six years of huge success together. Being broken up as a pair, separated from your best friend through no fault of your own, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. If you’ve ever split with a long-term partner, you’ll know the feeling.
Remember those crushing lows I mentioned earlier? This was one of them … and it hit me hard.
I refused to wallow in the disappointment, though, and gave myself the goal of performing well at the British National Cup this January. I finished second in the individual event, just three points behind Tonia – a result which persuaded the selectors to reunite us for the World Cup in Rio last month. Not only did we finish third, but we also qualified a spot for Team GB at the Olympic Games. Remember those elating highs I mentioned earlier? This was one of them and I felt incredible.
However, there was still time for one more twist: I was taken out of the synchro team again. That hit me even harder.
Quitting isn’t an option, though. I’m going to fight like I’ve never fought before to be on the plane to Rio.
At the moment, I’m training in Leeds and working with the physios to make sure I’m in the best possible shape I can be. It’s working as well. I feel stronger, fitter and more determined than I ever have done.
So, if you see me on that diving board in Rio this summer, you’ll know that it hasn’t been an easy journey. I would have had to fight and scrap for my place, and I would have given it my all to be up there looking down at the Olympic pool.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article was written by Sarah Barrow. Sarah’s latest articles.