OLYMPIC GAMES: Digging deep pays off

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IT will be 18 months since the horrific head injury that could have ended Monique Gladding’s life when the Sheffield star steps up for her first dive at London 2012, but she never gave up on her Olympic dream.

The Durban-born 31-year-old cracked her head on the concrete platform and had to be pulled unconscious from the bottom pool at last year’s FINA Grand Prix in Russia, but said she always believed she could improve the British team.

Gladding, who will compete in the 10m springboard this summer, admits the last year-and-a-half have been a difficult journey, but is determined to give her all for her adopted country.

“It’s been a tough year since my head injury,” revealed Gladding, who was speaking at the Team GB kitting event at Loughborough University.

“I was in such a strong place going into that competition in Russia and my confidence was at an all-time high so when it happened it really knocked me over and I suppose I always had hope and belief that I could still do it.

“With the team around me and the support structure I had, it was just about putting a plan and strategy in place to make it happen. I still had the desire to be here and I believed I could, and believed I had something to offer to Team GB.

“It was just about digging deep and finding that extra bit inside. There have been really difficult times, really dark times, but we really broke it down into small bite sizes, and every small step was a real personal accomplishment which made the whole journey easier.”

Gladding enjoyed success as a gymnast when she was a teenager, but had to retire from the sport through injury.

But since taking up diving she hasn’t looked back and stands on the brink of making her dreams a reality.

“I had to quit gymnastics when I was 17 because I had knee surgery, and I was told I wouldn’t be able to carry on,” said Gladding.

“There was a real void left in my life at that stage.

“My mum asked why I didn’t give diving a try because I might like that, and I tried it and fell in love with it straight away and the rest is history.

“This has been my dream for so long and I’ve been chasing it forever so that on its own is a massive thing, never mind where I’ve come from and the year I’ve had, it just an absolute delight.

“And to be in London on home ground, there are just so many things that make it a special occasion and I’m just honoured.”

Gladding has also been backed by triple-Olympian Peter Waterfield, who will make his fourth appearance at a Games when he partners Tom Daley in the 10m synchro this summer.

Waterfield paid tribute to Gladding’s spirit, saying: “She took a pretty bad hit last year and to come back from that so soon is incredibly brave.

“It’s nice to see her back on the board and she’s a valuable member of Team GB.”

Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week took place from 25-29 June 2012 and is Britain’s biggest school sport event with more than four million pupils staging their own Games this year. Find out more at lloydstsb.com/london2012