Diving nationals heat up
12 December 2013
DIVING: Matthew Mitcham and Melissa Wu headline a strong line up of divers at the national titles in Sydney this week.
Mitcham is embracing the unusual challenge of juggling a return to diving and performing as a cabaret artist in his own show.
Mitcham, the 2008 Beijing 10-metre platform champion, is bubbling with enthusiasm and has rediscovered his passion for the platform event.
He had planned to give it up after a disappointing campaign at the 2012 London Games and some injury problems, but has recently returned to the 10-metre board.
Mitcham is unbeaten since returning to competition in the past few months, winning events in at the NSW, Victorian and Queensland state titles and at the Asia Pacific championships heading into this week's national titles in Sydney.
Outside the pool, he has battled with drug, alcohol and depression issues in the past and written a revealing autobiography, Twists and Turns.
He has extracted anecdotes from the book for the cabaret show, which he will tour with early next year.
Mitcham will perform in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide and is negotiating to do it at he world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, two weeks after the Commonwealth Games diving competition in the Scottish capital.
Mitcham is working on the show in between two three-hour blocks of training and stressed his performance schedule wouldn't compromise his diving endeavours.
"There's about a five-hour window in the middle of the day which is when I've been doing vocal and script rehearsals and it's been going really well," Mitcham told AAP.
"The only festivals I'm agreeing to play in are ones that fit around my competition schedule.
"It's certainly been a great part of recovery to be doing this."
He will contest four events in Sydney this week.
"I'm so much better than I have been in the last three years, so much so that I've actually got the hardest list of dives that I've ever had, at the moment," Mitcham said.
He isn't looking past the Commonwealth Games, the one major championship in which he has yet to win a gold medal, collecting four silvers in 2010.
Meanwhile, Olympic diving medallist Wu is resigned to competing with a back injury for the rest of her career.
Wu, who will be contesting the 10 metre individual and synchronised events at the national open championships starting in Sydney on Thursday, only recently returned to competition.
The diminutive 21-year-old dual Olympian from Sydney has had issues with a bulging disc in her lower back.
"I think I'll be injured for as long as I dive," said Wu, a 2008 Olympic 10 metre synchro silver medallist.
"But it's been really good to have a break this year and rest my mind and my body and at the moment my injuries are pretty good."
Forward dives are particularly stressful for her back, but the fiercely determined Wu said the hardest thing was sometimes reining herself back at training.
"Sometimes it's a matter of training smarter rather than necessarily just turning out all these numbers," Wu said.
"It's hard for me to pull back when I need to, but I think I've found the right balance now."
Wu, who takes anti-inflammatories before competing, was happy with the scores she recently recorded at the NSW and Queensland state titles and in an event in New Zealand.
Her immediate goal is to perform well enough in Sydney to qualify for the Commonwealth Games selection trials in Melbourne next April.
Wu is adamant her ongoing back issues will not prevent her from trying to emulate her medal-wining efforts at the last two Commonwealth Games.
"While I'm ready to compete, my expectations will be as high as ever," Wu said.
She is already targeting a third Olympics in Rio in 2016 after a disappointing campaign in London last year.
"I had a good preparation going in, I didn't do as well as I wanted on the day," Wu said.
"But there were still lots of positives to take from it and it just gives me more desire to want to do better In the future."
She has a new partner in the 10 metre synchro in London Olympian Rachel Bugg.