Games just a dive away

A RIVALRY and friendship that began on the beaches around the mid North Coast is set to reach another stage should diver Alex Croak and triathlete Emma Moffatt pass final muster for Olympic selection.

Both are at almost unbackable odds to be on the plane to Beijing, something that seemed little more than a dream all those years ago when both were junior members of Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club.

When the Coffs Coast Advocate caught up with Croak yesterday she was taking a break for lunch with her boyfriend and still coming to grips with the twists and turns her athletic career has taken.

"Life is funny," Croak said yesterday.

"Emma and I knew each other as Nippers and competed on a regular basis and it will be something special if we both make it into the team.

"As you know I left for the Academy of Sport when I was very young and our paths went in different directions but it seems like they may be coming together again."

Should they be confirmed as Olympians in the next few weeks it will bring to four the number of qualifiers from the local region, following the selection of Stacy Roiall in the trap shooting team and Michael Anderson for the Paralympics swimming.

Croak moved one step closer to the final place in the diving team by finishing second in the 10m platform event to 15-year-old whiz kid Melissa Wu in the Australian Trials held in Hobart on the weekend.

After the nerve-wracking tension of 14 preliminary dives and with Wu already holding first place, Croak held a 7.40 point advantage over third-placed former-Olympic Gold medallist Chantelle Newberry with one dive remaining.

Athens games hero Newberry heightened the tension by scoring 76.50 the dive was a backward two-and-a-half somersaults, one-and-a-half twists with pike with 3.4 degree difficulty before Croak sent the crowd wild with a score of 78.20 from the judges.

The feat prompted a race for the grandstands and a climb to where her dumbstruck mother, Heather, was watching the tussle.

"A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders," Croak said.

"Experience in gymnastics helped me handle the nerves."

And that's where the saga of Croak's unbelievable athletic career takes is latest twist and turn as she seeks to represent her country at two Olympic Games in two distinct sporting disciplines.

The last to perform the feat was Nova Peris who won gold with the Hockeyroos in 1996 before switching to athletics in Sydney.

After representing Australia as a gymnast at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and winning a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Croak famously switched to diving and found immediate success.

At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne she won a silver medal with Melissa Wu in the 10m synchronised platform.

"The result on the weekend means I head to North America with the Aussie team for the FINA Grand Prix meeting and the last exciting stage of the journey," Croak said.

After final selection competitions held in Montreal and Ft. Lauderdale, Croak will return to Australia where the Olympic team will be announced on May 27.

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