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Alexandre Despatie will compete at Olympics despite injury

Canadian diving veteran Alexandre Despatie suffered a large cut to his head and a concussion in a diving accident in Spain, but is still expected to compete at the Summer Olympics in London.

The 27-year-old from Laval, Que., was hurt Tuesday while performing an inward three-and-a-half. His head struck the board with full force.

“It was a really out-of-the-ordinary, really freak accident in his case,” said Dive Canada chief technical officer Mitch Geller.

Geller says Despatie lost his balance and his head hit the end of the springboard, suffering a 10-centimetre cut just below the hairline.

“It’s going to affect his training and his preparation plan has to be revised,” Geller said. “It he in jeopardy of not competing? Very low probability of that.

“There’s some concussion for sure. We expect quite mild because we’ve done all the tests.”

Despatie was pulled from the water by lifeguards and his coach Arturo Miranda, but Geller says if the diver lost consciousness, it was perhaps between 10 and 20 seconds.

“The concussion part of it, right now we don’t see any evidence that it requires any special attention,” Geller said. “We’ll go through the regular precautions to try and make sure he’s recovered as quickly as possible.”

Despatie required surgery to close the wound, which will take about two weeks to heal.

“Thanks so much for the support everyone!! The surgery went well and I will give you guys an update soon!!” Despatie said in a tweet today. The hashtag to the tweet was “olympicdreamstillalive.”

A silver medallist at the last two Olympics, Despatie will not compete at this weekend’s Grand Prix in Spain, nor in next week’s Grand Prix in Italy.

The Olympic men’s springboard competition starts Aug. 6 with the preliminary round.

Geller says there’s training Despatie can do on land before he gets back in the water to prepare for London. He says about 60 per cent of a diver’s training is done outside of the water.

“Certainly the plan that we had in terms of his home stretch preparation for the Games themselves is no longer an option for us,” Geller said. “We really have to assess how we revise the plan.

“The only thing is, we really wanted him to compete a couple of times before the Olympics. It’s just the cards that we’re dealt.

“He’s a special athlete and he probably has the best chance of anybody in these kinds of circumstances of making sure he’s ready to go.”

Despatie broke his foot in April of 2008, yet claimed a silver medal in springboard at the Beijing Olympics that year.

He earned silver in the same event in Athens in 2004, which was the first in diving for a Canadian man. Despatie also performed at the Sydney Games in 2000 when he was just 15.

Canada’s goal at the 2012 Summer Games is to finish in the top 12 of the approximately 204 participating countries. The diving team’s objective is to produce at least two medals.

“We wish Alex a full and speedy recovery,” Canadian team chef de mission Mark Tewksbury said in a statement. “He is driven, determined and defiant in the face of any challenge in his path. I know he can recover from this injury.”

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