Future deep-ends on youth

ROD KELLY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

Two-time Olympic silver medal-winning diver Alexandre Despatie has made a career out of getting the best marks possible in an intricate, demanding sport that pits him against the best in the world.

It's no wonder then the 23-year-old three-metre springboard star, who made Canadians proud in Beijing last year and in Athens in 2004, thinks numbers play an important role in the future.

"I think a lot of it comes down to how many kids get involved in the sport," Despatie said when asked what he considers the key to more Canadian divers prevailing in Olympic competition.

"When you consider countries like China that have so many young divers and such a huge pool of talent to draw from -- that makes a big difference," Despatie said.

"In Canada, we don't have that same volume of athletes to draw from, so it's important that we encourage young people to get involved in sports. It will be good for them.

"They can follow their dreams and they'll be healthy, too. The more divers we have, the better our chances will be."

For Despatie, who is in Calgary this weekend as a spectator at the 2009 Winter Senior Nationals at the Talisman Centre, the journey from young recreational diver to world supremacy in his sport was a storybook tale.

First diving in his family's backyard pool at age 5, the native of Laval, Que., actually figured out the intricacies of soaring off a board well before he could swim.

"My parents would wait there to help me out of the pool," said Despatie.

Noticing his athletic knack, Despatie's family registered him in a diving program, a fun pastime that eventually developed into his passion.

Despatie's silver-medal Olympic performance last year in China may be considered his most impressive to date.

Not only did he manage to lift the spirits of Canadians at a time when podium finishes seemed few and far between, but he was able to repeat his 2004 feat only months after suffering a broken bone in his foot.

Sidelined with a back injury now, it will be a similar type of resiliency that sets the stage for another appearance in Summer Games competition.

The London Games in 2012 would be Despatie's fourth consecutive, and he seems hungrier than ever.

"A lot of times a post-Olympic year can be a difficult one," he said.

"But I don't want that. I want to avoid going into any sort of slump.

"I'm resting my back right now as a preventative measure, but I've been doing well for 10 years and I want to continue to excel. The competition is getting better every year, so I need to look after myself.

"I'm thankful that my career has gone well, and that I've had the right people around me."


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