MAKING A SPLASH: Domonic Bedggood is making his Olympic debut in Rio.
MAKING A SPLASH: Domonic Bedggood is making his Olympic debut in Rio. Chris Hyde

Former gymnast dives in at the deep end

FATE sometimes has a funny way of intervening. Sometimes it can be painful.

Just ask one-time gymnast Domonic Bedggood.

If not for an incident five years ago in which he fractured his back, he would not be here now discussing being a first-time member of the Australian Olympic team ... as a diver.

"I'm a big believer in everything happens for is reason," he tells Australian Regional Media.

"I don't really know how my gymnastics career would have panned out.

"Gymnastics is a very hard sport to make it, especially in Australia. It's really tough."

Bedggood has "made it" in diving though - to the point he is a Commonwealth champion, having won gold at the Glasgow Games in 2014 in the 10m synchro with the great Matthew Mitcham, and is now looking forward to his Olympic debut in Rio.

It's been a rapid rise in the sport after his gymnastics career came crashing down.

Then just 16, the Brisbane product suffered a sickening fall on to the top of the high beam after a routine flip went awry during training.

Left writhing in pain, he needed six months to recover before making a cautious return to the mat.

"I tried to come back but my back didn't hold up like it used to," he recalls.

"I had to make a decision I guess to stop gym and look elsewhere, other sports to participate in.

"The aquatics centre was right across from the gymnastics centre, and I knew a few Olympic divers there who were good friends of mine. Divers always want gymnasts to come and try, especially the coaching because we're so similar.

"I went 'why not - it can't hurt'."

That wasn't totally the case - the now 21-year-old has certainly had his ups and downs while perfecting the art of launching himself into a pool and effectively making as little a splash as possible.

Bedggood competes in the men's 10m platform preliminaries at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Bedggood competes in the men's 10m platform preliminaries at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"It's quite ironic, the first time I ever tried the dive that Mitcham and I did to win gold, I ended up in hospital," the diminutive Bedggood explains.

"It's like a twisting one … and halfway through that twist I've gotten lost.

"Everything just happened so quickly … I just remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking I shouldn't be seeing this.

"I was almost like free falling."

Bedggood hit the water hard and was dragged out by training partner James Connor.

"I had to go to hospital because I busted all these blood vessels in my lungs, I was coughing up blood.

"As a safety precaution, I had to get a scan on my back and my neck, make sure I didn't fracture anything."

Bedggood didn't this time, and he also wasn't going to let that incident stop him from fulfilling his destiny in the pool.

Nor was there going to be any tentative dipping of toes into the water. He instead would throw himself into the deep end.

"The next time I went and did it it was the quickest thing you've ever watched," he says. "There was no mucking around."

Bedggood would go on to combine with 2008 Olympic champion Mitcham to secure his own place in history.

Matthew Mitcham (right) and team mate Domonic Bedggood (centre right) at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Matthew Mitcham (right) and team mate Domonic Bedggood (centre right) at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The pair had planned to go for gold together in Rio, until Mitcham decided to hang up his togs once and for all earlier this year.

"It's a bit of a shame I didn't get to spend more time with Mitcham," Bedggood says.

"We were put together at the start of 2014. I was quite young in my diving career, (and) definitely wasn't confident enough that I could synchro with him. I was like 'I am not good enough to do this, but I'll give it my best shot'.

"We were planning to try and get a synchro spot for Australia ... but when you've had enough, you've had enough."

Coached by Xiangning Chen, Bedggood will instead attempt become an Olympic champion on his own, lining up again in the 10m platform, which he hopes will get him on top of the world.

He claimed a silver and bronze at grand prix events in Spain and Mexico last year and has this year finished sixth at the World Series event in Russia and eighth at the World Cup in Rio.

Having previously mastered somersaults on the gymnastics mat, his skills have transferred best to the platform as opposed to the lower springboards.

"It's a bit more natural to me," he says

"You have to sometimes wonder why I picked the 10m - it seems a crazy idea.

"When I first got on the 3m that was so ridiculously high. The highest apparatus in gymnastics is not even 2m high

"Then they chucked me up on the 10m and I wanted to cry.

"But it's an adrenaline rush, standing on a 10m platform, doing however many flips and landing on your head."

You could say he's also well and truly landed on his feet as a diver.

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