Olympics news 2024: Charli Petrov racing clock to be fit for Paris 2024, partner Melissa Wu moves to singles

One of Australia’s greatest young diving prospects, Charli Petrov, is in a race against the clock to be fit for the 2024 Paris Olympics – prompting her partner Melissa Wu to resume her solo career to keep her Games hopes alive.

Petrov was diagnosed with stress fractures in her back earlier this year and hasn’t competed since.

It meant Wu, a four-time Olympian, was without a diving partner for the synchronised event – forcing her to compete as a solo diver for the first time since her historic bronze medal win at the Tokyo Olympics at the World Championships trials, held in Brisbane today.

Time away from the discipline didn’t have too much of an impact on Wu who finished the trials in second place behind fellow Olympian Nikita Hains.

Wu had a great first dive but missed the entry in her second dive – putting her in fifth place.

The experienced diver didn’t let the slip up affect her – collecting herself for an impressive third dive, a reverse 2.5 somersaults. Wu entered the water so cleanly there was hardly a ripple – scoring straight nines.

It bumped her up to fourth spot with two dives to go.

A solid inward 3.5 somersaults notched her tally up to 821.6 – pushing her into second place behind Hingston on 830.80.

Wu didn’t falter on the final dive, finishing the competition with 892 points.

But Hains pulled off an impressive final dive to steal first place with a total of 899.2.

Wu said today was the first time she had felt nervous before a competition for a while.

“It wasn’t my best today, but it was a good learning lesson and very humbling,” Wu said.

“I know what I need to work on when I go home and focus on before selection for Paris (Olympics).”

The forced rest from Petrov’s injury gave Wu a chance to fully recover from her niggling back injury.

“It’s a bit of a blessing in disguise for me because I was able to take some time off to rest. I was able to just keep building and I thought maybe I’ll have a crack at individual.”

While there are a few hoops to jump through before Paris including securing a quota spot for the women’s 10M synchronised and individual events – Wu said her ultimate goal was to compete in both disciplines at the Paris Olympics next year.

“It’s a process and you really have to take it one step at a time,” Wu said.

“For all of us girls the priority is these quotas and spots for the country, we have got to be a team player. We knock that off first then everybody can focus on trials.”

Wu was forced to focus on synchronised diving – where her career began – after picking up a crippling back injury post Tokyo Olympics while appearing on reality TV show SAS Australia.

Wu teamed up with young Petrov, just four months out from the Commonwealth Games.

The duo put on an impressive performance considering their lack of time together – winning the women’s 10m platform synchronised event.

Both Wu and Petrov suffered back injuries post Commonwealth Games and were forced to withdraw from the Australian Championships and Worlds, held in July.

The World Championships in the last chance for Australia to qualify a quota spot for the women’s 10m synchro platform at the Paris Olympics.

Diving Australia performance direction Steve Foley said there was still hope Petrov and Wu would compete for the 10m women’s synchro quota spot at the Worlds in Doha.

“In the selection policy we have a special consideration clause for injury, bereavement and a whole heap of things so (Petrov) is still eligible to be considered for the synchro with Melissa Wu. But it will come to a point where she’ll have to prove her fitness and her health,” Foley said

Foley said Petrov, was on the mend and back training and hoped to be diving a full list by the end of the year.

“It is just monitoring and holding her back when needed,” Foley said. “It’s all about loading and making sure she doesn’t overdo it. There is still a bit of time on her side but what I don’t want to do is put all this pressure on her to be ready to go. We need to give her the time and if it doesn’t work out then that’s how it goes.”

In the men’s events Cassiel Rousseau and Dom Bedggood blitzed the field in the 10m men’s synchro – winning by almost 200 points.

Rousseau, the reigning World Champion also won the men’s 10m individual platform, beating Japanese diver Rikuto Tamai, who got the better of Rousseau in the same event at the Tokyo Olympics by just more than a point.

While Sam Fricker and Kurtis Edwards also took the top prize in the men’s 3m synchro.

The team for the World Championships will be announced early week.

SAM FRICKER’S DARING OLYMPIC DREAM

Olympic diver Sam Fricker is on a mission to qualify for two vastly different diving events at the 2024 Games – a feat no one has attempted in more than a decade.

Fricker hopes to qualify for Paris 2024 in the men’s 3m springboard synchro and the 10m men’s platform.

While the same sport the two disciplines are vastly different – essentially two different sports.

His first big step to earning a spot on the Australian team and a ticket to Paris will be at this week’s World Championship trials in Brisbane.

Fricker will go in to the competition with a confidence boost after winning the Oceania Championships 10m men’s platform event to claim a quota spot for the Olympics.

Competing in both disciplines has been done before – one of the most decorated divers in Olympic history Dmitri Sautin (Russia) competed in both disciplines at the 92, 96, 00, 04 and 08 Games. At the 2004 Olympics he won gold in the 10m platform synchro, silver in the 3m springboard synchro, bronze in the 3m synchro and bronze in the 10m platform.

But there wasn’t one men’s diver who attempted the feat at the London, Rio or Tokyo Olympics.

Fricker’s coach Steve Foley is no stranger to competing in both disciplines – the three-time Olympian was a springboard and platform diver.

Foley said back when he was competing divers did both springboard and platform as there was no synchronised event – so it was the only way to get two cracks at a spot on the podium.

Now with synchronised events in both disciplines divers can opt to specialise in one.

“Sam is just what I call a skilled all rounder, he is excellent,” Foley said.

“It’s a trade secret but synchro is actually harder than platform. Platform is scarier but it doesn’t move like the springboard does.

“If you are off balance you’re in trouble. It’s a challenge for Sam because every now and then he won’t be quite balanced because he is not as used to the springboard but the more he does it the better he’s getting at it.

“I give Sam a lot of credit because he is trying some of the most difficult dives possible on the three metre springboard and it’s not natural for him.”

Fricker won bronze in the 3m springboard synchro at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and finished 28th in the platform at the Tokyo Olympics.

While juggling both disciplines is a challenge that means Fricker has little rest from training during the week he said there was no way he could pick just one.

“Synchro is really important to me, it’s a way I can keep competing on the springboard and the 10m platform,” Fricker said.

“It’s tricky and I don’t think there are any other divers that do it at the moment, especially here in Australia.

“I find doing both has been effective for me. I haven’t found focusing on one event to make me perform better.

“At the Olympics the only reason I focused on platform was because realistically that was my only chance but I love doing both.”

There are many differences between the two disciplines – so while Fricker does similar dives off both the springboard and platform they are vastly different.

The springboard has a hurdle takeoff while the platform doesn’t. In springboard a lot of the twists and turns are done on the way up – off the board. In platform diving everything is done on the way towards the water.

“They don’t just feel different, when you train the techniques are different,” Fricker said.

The 21-year-old won his Commonwealth Games medal alongside experienced diver Shixin Li. But has found a new partner in Kurtis Mathews.

It’s the first time Mathews has competed for Australia since the 2018 Commonwealth Games – training instead in America through the US college system.

Fricker and Mathews were teamed up almost four months ago.

But living in the same state means they have been able to train together multiple times a week.

Fricker said the duo had faced a number of challenges so far.

“We do different hurdle approaches and I changed my whole hurdle approach to match his and we were doing that for two and a half, three months and there’s only been in the last two or three weeks, we had to make another adjustment because I couldn’t do his technique for that hurdle,” Fricker said.

“So we had to merge the two into a combination of my old hurdle and his hurdle and that gives me enough height and gets the synchro in time.

“So it’s been a constant evolution and constant process of trying to figure it out, but I really liked Matt because he’s committed to the team.

“He’s committed to training and more importantly, he believes that we can do it and that’s really important.”

Foley said he couldn’t fault Fricker’s enthusiasm for training.

“He’s just committed and giving it his best shot,” Foley said. “If it works out how good is that, if it doesn’t he isn’t going to die wondering.”

The World Championship trials are on at the Brisbane Aquatic centre from December 3 to December 6.

Originally published as Charli Petrov racing clock to be fit for Paris 2024, partner Melissa Wu moves to singles