Rio bronze medallist's long road to Tokyo

·3-min read

Olympic bronze medallist Anabelle Smith has learned to roll with the punches throughout a tumultuous 14 months of lockdowns, event cancellations and World Cup heartbreak for Australia's elite divers.

Smith will seek to qualify for a third Olympics at this week's selection trials in Sydney, drawing a line under a frustrating stretch in which her hopes of winning another Olympic medal in synchronised three-metre springboard were dashed.

Smith shifted from Melbourne to Adelaide at the end of 2019, mapping out a six-month plan that would ensure she peaked at the Tokyo Olympics.

COVID-19 intervened.

Smith returned home then was among several Victorian divers to relocate to Adelaide in September, via two weeks in hotel quarantine, because "the rest of the country was training as normal and we had to get on with it".

World Cup selection trials were then abruptly halted in Brisbane because of March's snap lockdown, while Diving Australia (DA) opted against sending a team to last month's World Cup in Tokyo.

The World Cup absence means Australia will send seven divers to the Olympics, rather than 12 or 14, while Smith and Maddison Keeney won't take part in the same event they won bronze in at Rio 2016.

"It was really challenging," Smith told AAP.

"I was pretty disappointed.

"But I had to quickly switch my mindset because staying in that negative mindset wasn't going to help.

"I'm relieved the trials are finally happening but also feel confident, well prepared and ready to go.

"I've got no expectations any more of things going to plan. You have to roll with the punches and know that the challenges will keep coming."

DA's board wrestled with its complex World Cup dilemma for numerous reasons.

Talks with the Queensland government about a biosecurity plan that would allow returning divers to train while in hotel quarantine ended when Japan declared yet another state of emergency.

DA high-performance boss Steve Foley, having been involved in the sport for over 45 years and previously overseing UK and US national programs, admitted missing out on a chance to secure additional quota spots was "tough on everyone, especially the athletes".

"I felt for the board. It was a very, very tough decision," Foley said.

"It wasn't just the COVID risk.

"There's hardly any flights back, so we could have been stranded over there. We were looking at a charter flight but that blows our whole budget.

"Then you're in quarantine for two weeks and can't train. The selection trials are two weeks later, you're suddenly disadvantaged by going to the World Cup."

Foley, who represented Australia at three Olympics, is confident his charges will be competitive in Tokyo despite the suboptimal preparation.

"We know we're medal chances in a couple of events," he said.

"We don't shy away from that.

"We also know we've got no measuring stick. The last time they really competed was 2019 world champs.

"A lot has changed since then."

AUSSIE TOKYO OLYMPICS DIVING TEAM

*Women's 3m (2)

*Women's 10m (2)

*Men's 3m (1)

*Men's 10m (2).

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting