Surprise! I’m not Anabelle.
In fact, my name is James, and considering you were all expecting Belle’s words of wisdom tonight, I promise to keep this brief and let you get back to your normal programming as soon as possible!
When Anabelle asked me to contribute to her blog as a special guest (I added the special), I was excited by the prospect of being able to speak to you all. If you’ve been following Belle for a while you may have seen me pop up in a few places here and there as we’ve been teammates for a long time and close friends for even longer.
Coincidently, our diving careers both began at the same local pool at around about the same time. Each taking a liking to the sport, we progressed through the same developmental pathways; sharing the same coaches and the same friends as we went. We even shared the same cars as our parents chose to split the pool pick-ups and drop-offs between our two families. It seemed Belle and I were practically inseparable.
Then, at the end of 2009, our Coach at the time accepted a position to return to Queensland where he could be closer to his family. All of a sudden our beloved Melbourne-based training group had no clear pathway forward and to make a long, difficult and independent decision-making process short, I ended up relocating to Brisbane while Belle decided to stay in Melbourne for another year.
Both decisions came with unique challenges for two young athletes to wrestle with, but by continuing to make the best of our respective situations we ended up sharing another experience later that year, when we both debuted at our first Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010.
In the 10 years that have transpired since, I spent four of them training in Brisbane, five over in the U.S., and the last of which back here in Melbourne where it all began. I’ll leave it to Belle to speak on her story and her journey during this time, but while our careers took us along very different paths, one thing has remained constant: there hasn’t been an Australian Team in the last decade, fly off to the major diving event of the year without at least one of us sitting on that plane.
But the purpose of this story isn’t to glorify the past achievements of Anabelle or I, but rather, I wanted to highlight that while we’ve had a number of shared experiences, we each took very different routes in making them happen. We ran our own race, it just so happened we were doing it at the same time. And I think that’s an important point for any young, aspiring athlete to understand.
At the moment, daily training environments and even access to pool facilities are different all around the country. Some athletes are able to train in water, while others are confined to the space within their homes; and anyone that’s tried to make a plan during this period has likely been reminded of just how quickly things can change during a pandemic of this nature.
So, while we each continue to navigate these shifting tides, my advice to you, athlete or not, would be this: focus on making the most of the opportunities that are available to you and allow yourself to take things day by day. By doing that, by continuing to make the best of each situation you find yourself in, your results will inevitably take care of themselves and things will find a way of falling into place; even if not quite how you initially imagined.
Anabelle and I have had the privilege of experiencing two Olympic Games together and are both pushing to make that three come Tokyo next year.
We each dreamed of becoming Olympians from a young age, probably while our parents were driving us to training, but I don’t think either of us would have envisioned the road that journey has taken us in getting there. Put simply, we both continued to find ways to make the most of our opportunities, and I think, to quote Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference”.
Til next time, James