Sport

Diver Maddison Keeney on improving on her Rio Olympics bronze medal to win gold at this year’s World Championships. By Jack Kerr.
Credit: CHRIS GRAYTHEN / STAFF

Flying high: Maddison Keeney, 21, diver

Winning at the World Championships, it was very relieving to have that done. I got a bronze at the Olympics, and I’ve got a couple of other World Championship medals, but this is my first gold. I knew I could do it, so I was really glad that I was able to pull it off.

I’ve failed a couple of dives at some big meets, which has had some pretty negative impacts on my mindset and my confidence. In the 2015 World Championships, I fell off the board and failed to dive in the same event as I just won the gold in. I could have possibly got a medal in that event. That’s why it was really relieving to be able to do what I had always wanted to do.

I think that experience was really important in helping me improve and in learning not to make the same mistakes again. I’ve done a lot of talking to psychologists and working out what went wrong and why it went wrong. Stuff like that. A lot of thinking, and acceptance. You can’t change what has happened in the past. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, so you just have to learn from it.

Changing my mindset in how I went about competing was really big for me. I’d always think about, “I really want to win” or “I really want to do this dive well”, rather than, “How do I do this dive well?” Different things work for different people. Mine was more focusing on the process rather than the outcome.

I try not to pay too much attention to the scoreboard. Because then you start thinking about the outcome, and that puts me off too much. I just think about what my coach tells me to do and if I’ve done the dive to the standard I want. I generally know how good my dive has been once I’ve done it.

Life as an Olympic medal winner? It’s pretty normal. Exactly the same as it was before I won a medal. I got bronze in the three-metre synchronised. Diving’s not really a major sport, so no one really recognises. It’s just an achievement in my life, and the start of hopefully a lot more achievement. 

Only about a third of our training is in the water, training our actual skills. We train about 28 hours a week, mornings and afternoons, every day except Sundays. Probably the majority of the time is spent out of the water, doing strength and conditioning stuff. And on the trampolines and the dryboards that we’ve got. Trampolining is fun – until you have to do hundreds of somersaults every day. We don’t do any yoga, really.

When you’re starting out, you build your skills in the dry land. Then you can start to do basic dives in the water. And then as you get better and more confident with your dry land skills, you can do harder stuff in the water. So you don’t start off just chucking flips and stuff. You start from the basics.

We have to preselect the dives that we are going to do. But there are rules about which dives you are going to do. On the springboard, there are five groups of dives, and you have to do one from each of those groups. Basically, you just do the hardest dives that you can from each of those groups.

No dive is ever perfect, no matter how long you do it for. You work on it every training session and just hope it gets more consistent, really. The hardest dive I can do is a front two-and-a-half with two twists in it. I’ve been doing that for a few years now. I’m working on a couple of new dives to hopefully do next year. They’re a project, a work in process. We’ll see how it goes. 

I do about five international competitions a year. The first half of the year is very busy, the second half is more relaxed. The Commonwealth Games next year is the next major competition that we have. Small goals in between then.

I really wanted to study astrophysics and astronomy. But as I went through my degree, I became more interested in data analysis, so I took up the computational science major. I know a lot of athletes do nutrition or exercise science, stuff like that, but I think it’s good to have something completely different to focus on, to get away from the diving.

 

This week’s highlights…

 

Motorsport: WRC Rally Australia

Saturday and Sunday, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Soccer: A-League – Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets

Saturday, 7.50pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Cricket: Women’s Ashes – Australia v England, 2nd T20

Sunday, 2.35pm (AEDT), Manuka Oval, Canberra

Rugby league: World Cup quarter-final – England v Papua New Guinea

Sunday, 4pm (AEDT), AAMI Park, Melbourne

Soccer: Matildas v China

Wednesday, 7.30pm (AEDT), AAMI Park, Melbourne

Cricket: Men’s Ashes – Australia v England, 1st Test, day 1

Thursday, 10am (AEST), The Gabba, Brisbane

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 18, 2017 as "Flying high". Subscribe here.

Jack Kerr
is a journalist and documentary maker.

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