Alexandra dives into a new sporting opportunity
By MITCHELL DALE
FORMER Coffs Harbour girl Alex Croak is literally diving head first into her goal of becoming an Australian Olympian in two different sports.
As one of the Country's top gymnasts, Croak went to the 2000 Olympic Games, 2001 World Championships and won a gold medal with the Australian team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
But after hanging up her leotard in 2003, Croak set her sights on becoming an elite diver last year.
Fast forward 12 months and Croak is making a small splash on entry into the water but a huge splash in her new sport.
Her coach, Chava Sobrino, who has trained some of the best in the business including Olympic medallist Loudy Tourky, believes the future is bright for 20-year old Croak.
"I have been to five Olympic Games with diving and I have never experienced a situation like this where an athlete has developed so quickly in a new sport," Sobrino said.
"If she keeps up this growth-rate, she will be able to achieve her goals."
After securing a New South Wales Institute of Sport scholarship last year, Croak competed strongly at her first State Diving Championships in December, finishing fourth in the 1m springboard, second in the 3m springboard and first in the synchronised 3m.
That performance was good enough for Croak to qualify for the Australian titles at the Gold Coast last weekend.
Croak, who made a whistle stop visit to her family at Diggers Beach this week, was pleased with her efforts at nationals.
"I was seventh in the 3m, eighth in the 1m and sixth in the synchronised 3m, which wasn't too bad," she said.
"I wanted to be in the top 10 and I did that."
Her first step on the way to a birth in the 2008 Olympics will come later this year and early in 2006, when she competes for a spot on Australia's Commonwealth Games team.
After reaching the summit of Australian gymnastics when she was crowned national champion in 2002, Croak needed a new challenge, hence the change of sports.
"I had done everything I wanted to do in gymnastics and then I had a few injuries," she said.
"I had had enough and I wanted a break.
"I took 2003 off to do my HSC, but then I got bored and wanted to get back into sport.
"I didn't want to do back to gymnastics, so I took up diving."