August 19, 2008 / 4:52 PM / in 9 years

Silver lining after tough year for Despatie

BEIJING (Reuters) - A hard year for Alexandre Despatie was redeemed by an Olympic silver medal on Tuesday and the Canadian said it was as good as gold.

<p>Alexandre Despatie of Canada shows his silver medal in the men's 3m springboard diving final at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 19, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed</p>

Despatie battled injury through the year and the outlook for the three-meter springboard did not look bright when two of his six dives went awry in Monday evening’s preliminary round.

“I am just so happy that I was able to forget about this bad year I had, forget about my foot injury, forget about my back injury, forget about everything that was bad, everything that was an obstacle and be focused on the moment and dive for myself,” Despatie told reporters after splitting China’s He Chong and world champion Qin Kai for the silver medal.

“Today I can only say I dove for me.”

Despatie has been at the top for a decade, having won the Commonwealth platform title in 1998 at the age of only 13.

World platform champion in 2003 and world one-meter and three-meter springboard champion in 2005, he is one of the few divers who have been able to sustain a challenge against the dominant Chinese.

Olympic silver medalist behind China’s Peng Bo in 2004 and silver medalist behind Qai at the 2007 world championships, Despatie rejoiced over his latest silver medal.

“My silver medal is gold to me because of everything I’ve had to come back from this year,” he said.

”I knew from the beginning that this event would be extremely hard, there would be no space for mistakes, no gifts. We have to dive the best we can and that’s the only way to finish on top.

“Athens was different, it was my first Olympic medal. I was so happy because I was in a hole and I had to dig myself back,” he said. Despatie made an error on his third final dive in Athens but pulled back from third to second in the last round.

“I was way deeper in the hole this year than I was in Athens and I dug myself back and it came back right after a really bad prelims,” he said.

“It is a privilege that all of us divers have to be here and living the Olympics in China, because diving is so popular here and so appreciated. So to be able to live this moment, to live this kind of crowd, is really special to me.”

Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; editing by Steve Ginsburg

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