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  • Anabelle Smith

Winning an Olympic Bronze Medal

Medal potential

Going into Rio 2016, Maddi and I were in the mix of ‘medal potentials’ for Women’s 3m synchro. We had won medals at major comps throughout the 4-year cycle, and were consistently ranked within the top 4. Our biggest rivals in 2016 were China, Canada, and Italy, with most competition results being separated by only a few points.

I spent most of the weeks leading into Rio training alongside Maddi in Brisbane, so we were in form and well prepared to head off to the Olympics. After debuting in London, I believed I knew exactly what to expect arriving at an Olympic Games, however, I was proven wrong! Rio was a completely different event. From the infrastructure to the organisation, the security, and even down to the crowd, things were majorly different.


Outdoor pool

The most notable difference was the competition venue. In London (2012), the diving pool was a huge, brand new indoor pool, with the capacity to seat 17,500 people. In Rio, however, the pool was outdoors, and an existing facility!


Our 3m synchro event was scheduled for day 2 of the Olympics, which was the first day of diving events. Waking up on the morning of our event, I was super nervous – which I expected. We weren’t competing until the afternoon so we had hours of time to pass before we slowly prepared and headed to the pool. After about an hour of warm-up, we headed to the call room, getting ready to march out and be presented with the 7 other teams, ready for our event.


To be honest, I was pretty shocked when we came out of the tunnel and saw the crowd. In London, we were met with a sold-out crowd of screaming fans. However in Rio, the stands were probably only half-filled, and because of the openness of the outdoor pool, the atmosphere felt much less grand. That didn’t seem to ease my nerves though!

The competition

Going into the fifth and final round of the competition, Maddi and I thought we were out of the race for the medals. We felt we hadn’t been diving to our best, but we also weren’t watching or taking note of other teams scores. Our final dive was a ‘full out’, which is 2.5 somersaults in pike with a full twist. At the point of my take-off, my toes were over the edge of the board which forced my body to end up a little further away from the board than normal. I knew I still landed the dive upright, but screamed underwater because I knew my take-off would have forced our synchronicity to be off. In the footage of our event, you could see me push the water in frustration as I came out of the pool to meet Maddi. I swiftly apologised and told her I went too far out, to which she replied ‘oh gosh I literally didn’t do an arm swing and was hanging off the edge too’. Turns out when you are so in synch, you even make the same mistakes together.


So our final dive turned out to be our best scored dive, but then we had the long wait for the rest of the divers to finish their last dive too. As the German pair closed the competition, we saw our names light up in the bronze medal position and we both fell to the ground in disbelief, with our coaches arms around us. It was surreal. There wasn’t much time to soak in that moment though, because we were very quickly ushered away by the event staff to head back to the call room to get ready for the medal ceremony, as everything was run to time for the TV broadcast. I remember laughing and crying with Maddi and the Italian and Chinese girls who took silver and gold. I had a brush in my bag and some tinted moisturiser which we all shared in the 5mins we had to make ourselves look presentable to receive our medals!


Receiving or medals

Stepping on to the podium and hearing the roar of the crowd and more importantly, our teammates and coaches down the other end of the pool, was spine-tingling. We looked at each other on the podium and simply couldn’t stop smiling.


The hours to follow were chaos! But so much fun. We had our media manager take us from interview to interview at the pool and then when we got back to the village too. It was so exciting because we were one of the first medals for Australia. I remember walking through security at the village entrance with my medal on through the metal detector and feeling so proud…apparently it’s tradition! When things eventually slowed down, Maddi and I took our medals to the food hall and knocked back some pizza and ice cream. A moment to breathe a sigh of relief and take the reins off!

Because synchro was my only event, the days that followed for me, were filled with lots of media events and special opportunities. I cherish those memories because they represent so much to me. But the most special moment of all was calling my family back home who were watching me in the early hours of the morning in Melbourne. I could feel the joy and relief through my phone as everyone was in tears, screaming and yelling in excitement! Moments I will hold close to my heart forever.


Til next week, Belle



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©2020 by Anabelle Smith