Chava Sobrino is the Australian national head coach of diving and my current coach in Sydney.
When I was a lot younger, training in the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) gym; the gymnasts and divers would often have overlapping weight sessions.
Chava would often walk past us and give a wave and smile and ask how we were going. That stuck with me. So he was the person I contacted and he started to organise how it could work.
He offered me a six-week trial in the NSWIS diving program. If he saw potential in me after six weeks, he would let me continue on scholarship but if not, I could return back to gymnastics. I thought it was pretty radical but I took a shot at the six weeks.
Telling the gymnastics coaches was tough… but I would rather back my own intuition than let someone else’s agenda dictate what was best for me.
The diving coaches at NSWIS are both Mexican and they’re both relaxed and happy. I think that’s part of their success. They’ve coached Matt Mitcham, Melissa Wu and Brittany Broben, who are all Olympic medalists.
There is a history of success in the NSWIS program and I trusted what they were doing. It’s not like a Chinese regime that’s often seen as too strict and intense.
They want everyone to make sure they’re enjoying themselves because when you’re enjoying yourself and motivated within yourself you’re going to be diving your best.
I’m not sure what they really thought of me at the start, but when I started making quick progress I think they saw there was some potential and they were pretty happy with it.
I would rather back my own intuition than let someone else’s agenda dictate what was best for me.
Every time you have to do a new dive off the 10m platform it’s absolutely scary. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been up there.
When you start out in diving you start low. You don’t go up and dive off the 10m straight away.
The first time I went to the top wasn’t to jump off but just to experience it. I walked to the edge and looked down in disbelief as to how high it really is. I remember clearly thinking that it’s probably for the best if I just stick to being a springboard diver…
I couldn’t fathom how people did it. It looks so much higher when you’re standing up there than it does when you are on the pool deck.
The coaches always thought I’d be a platform diver but felt I had to work on my springboard first. They wanted me to get the basics right before going up.
It took about six months between starting diving and doing my first dive off the 10m platform.
Just five months after that, I got an opportunity to represent Australia in an international competition where I got a bronze medal behind two Chinese athletes at the Gold Coast Grand Prix.
That was mind-blowing for me. I knew I had worked really hard, but winning a medal for Australia after 11 months in the sport – something I hadn’t achieved at senior level in gymnastics – confirmed that switching to diving was the best decision I could’ve made.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to win medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2018 World Cup and 2019 World Series alongside 10m synchronised partner Domonic Bedggood. It really was the best decision for me and I now have my sights set on the 2021 Olympic Games.
I want to be someone who is inspirational. I want to use my story of how tough the transition process was, to empower people to make decisions based on what’s best for them, as opposed to making decisions based on what other people think is best for them.
I’ve been working closely with Diving Australia’s AW&E Manager, along with the AIS AW&E team and have aligned with the Olympics Unleashed program, talking to kids at schools, as well as the Lifeline Community custodian program.
This year I will be part of the Bite Back program, which is an AIS initiative partnered with the Black Dog Institute where we go into schools to talk to kids about positive psychology.
All of this community work is exactly where I want to be. It’s a huge testament to the AIS for thinking about the community and to roll out these community engagement programs.
They’ve identified the impacts athletes can have on their community and, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had as many opportunities to share my story and to inspire and encourage people to become their best selves.
Society can treat some people as more important because they’re more successful. I want to break that thinking.
Along with the community work, I’m pursuing my own motivational speaking business. I got a taste last year at the NRL grand final lunch where I gave a short speech on behalf of NSWIS thanking their sponsor the Carbine Club.
It was cool to speak in front of a thousand people – a bit like climbing that 10m platform for the first time.
I’m a big NRL and Dragons fan myself and seeing Johnathan Thurston, Benji Marshall and Cameron Smith in the audience as well as talking to Gareth Widdop and Jason Nightingale afterward was a bit of a star-struck moment.
I have a world view that every human being is intrinsically valuable and every human is important, irrespective of their success, mental health state or whatever it may be. Society can treat some people as more important because they’re more successful.
I want to break that thinking. My goal is to try and love people and make everyone feel important regardless of their success or talent so that they can live a life of purpose, meaning and fulfillment.