Partner’s pain drives veteran diver Wu

Melissa Wu is a veteran at the ripe old age of 25. Picture: Brianne Makin
Melissa Wu is a veteran at the ripe old age of 25. Picture: Brianne Makin

MELISSA Wu says the loss of her diving partner to injury has given her a greater appreciation of the fragility of her own career and a determination to enjoy every moment of the Commonwealth Games.

Wu's synchronised platform partner Taneka Kovchenko was forced to retire last week after scans revealed an issue that could have left her a quadriplegic if a dive went wrong.

South Australian Kovchenko, who with Wu was one of the favourites for gold at these Games, made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the Australian team after scans revealed a congenital problem that left her with a hyperflexible neck and vertebrae that compress her spinal cord and brain.

Taneka Kovchenko and Melissa Wu diving together. Picture: Getty Images
Taneka Kovchenko and Melissa Wu diving together. Picture: Getty Images

Wu, who will make her first appearance at these Games on Wednesday with West Australian Teju Williamson, said Kovchenko's withdrawal had been tough for the entire team.

"It was her first Commonwealth Games and you share that all together, so we all felt for her," Wu said.

"I just feel so sad.

"When I first heard about it, I couldn't sleep and I couldn't imagine how she was feeling.

"But I'm so lucky to have this opportunity.

"If anything, it gives me the motivation to really get out there and not only perform to my best but to really enjoy it and soak up the experience because you never know when it could be your last."

Wu has faced her own battles to get to a fourth Commonwealth Games after making her debut in Melbourne in 2006, aged 13.

"It's been a pretty long career, so I'm pretty lucky in that respect, especially when you see what happened to Taneka and you realise how fragile your body can be and you've really got to look after it," said Wu, who will compete in the individual platform event on Thursday as well as Wednesday's synchronised event.

"To get to a second home Games and a fourth Games (overall), is really exciting and I'm so happy to be here and to have this opportunity.

"I've got disc protrusions in my neck and a disc bulge in my back, I've got all sorts of things."

Wu said she had to be careful with her injuries and manage them well but Kovchenko's retirement had come as a shock to everyone.

Wu and her former partner Taneka Kovchenko.
Wu and her former partner Taneka Kovchenko.

"She'd been pushing through the injury for a while and had it scanned but didn't think it was going to (stop her)," Wu said.

"To be training hard for the Commonwealth Games one day and have to retire the next, I don't think she expected that, so that was pretty tough for her.

"You do have to be careful because the more you keep pushing, you never know what could happen."

There has been one upside for Wu, though, with the replacement for Kovchenko.

At 148cm Williamson is the first diving partner the diminutive Wu (153cm) has ever had who is shorter than her.

"It makes a big difference in diving. It's one thing to be able to synchronises in diving but it is a subjective sport as well, so (the judges) are looking at you before you even take off," Wu said.

"So to be a similar height is a positive thing, I think."



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