Canada’s diving hopeful Alexandre Despatie wanted to dive before he could swim, and has been wholly dedicated to the sport ever since. So his mum Christiane saw it as her job to ensure that he has somewhere to escape to and that he’s healthy, and happy.
“I’m a mother first and the mother of an Olympian second,” Chistiane says. “In this house we never talk about diving. It’s his oasis. When he’s here, he’s able to decompress.”
She remembers her son taking to water at just three weeks old, floating ‘like a lily pad’.
“He was born to be in the water, it was just natural. When he was two or three he didn’t know how to swim but he wanted to dive.”
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Lucky enough to have a pool in the back garden, Alexandre began practicing from the age of five and was already competing by eight.
“When he dove he would always ask his grandma to give him a score,” remembers Christiane. “She always gave him 10 but I gave him seven or eight. There were always little things to improve on!”
Everything changed for the athlete in 1998 when, at just 13, he represented Canada in the Commonwealth Games and won a gold medal, entering the Guinness Book of Records on account of his tender age.
“The media was there. I became a public figure when I was very young,” Alexandre explains. “I was like a team mascot because of my age. I was the youngest person on the Canadian team.”
Having an oasis to escape to became particularly important when Alexandre suffered a knee injury and was forced to take a break from training and competing.
“I was doing little dives that I’d learned at four years old,” he remembers his frustration. But his mum was there throughout the tough times and reckons it could be just what her son needs to win gold at this year’s Games.
“When things get tough, when he faces adversity, that’s when he excels. He always bounces back. He never stops surprising me.”
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