Name Matthew Mitcham
Olympics Beijing, 2008
Discipline 10m Platform
Age Then 21
Age Now 27
I started diving as an 11-year-old. With my background in trampolining my skill acquisition was fast. When you’re 11, you’re fearless. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to think about it.
My motivation came from quite a dark place. It was about validation as a kid. I said to myself, “Maybe if I’m the best in the world at something then mum will pay more attention to me and everyone will like me”.
At the Olympics I came second in the preliminaries behind one Chinese diver and second in the semis behind the other Chinese diver. I was thinking, at best, Olympic bronze medal. Both the Chinese guys were amazing.
When I was waiting to go up for my final dive, I thought the Chinese diver before me must’ve had a bad dive because the crowd all went Oooh. And I had to block my ears – I’m not hearing this, la-la-la. I tried to focus on the task at hand.
Once up there I was thinking, Just relax and enjoy it – have fun. I cleared my mind and focused on keeping my head in the present and on what I needed to do. Rows and rows of people in the crowd faded to nothingness. All I could hear was the sound of the spray on the surface of the water. It was a real “in-the-zone” moment. And then I just went for it.
I didn’t know it was great when I was under the water. It felt like I’d rolled the dive slightly over, but then that can be ideal for creating a vacuum that sucks the splash down with you. When I came back up the crowd was going bananas.
Aim High, Expect Low
“It’s a self-preservation mechanism,” says Mitcham. “You’re prepared if you don’t win – and pleasantly surprised if you do.”
When you’ve got one chance to get something right – be it a dive, sales presentation or a putt to win your pal’s money – Mitcham says ask yourself why you’re getting yourself worked up. “End of the day, does it really matter? Relax and give it your best shot.”
Looking to impress with a dive? “Assuming you’re in a deep enough pool, try to go as vertical as possible and dive ‘through the hole’ that your hands make when you hit the water,” says Mitcham. “If that’s too technical, just point your toes.”
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