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Alexandre Despatie (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)
Alexandre Despatie (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Despatie qualifies ninth in individual springboard Add to ...

This is a testament to toughness: The dive that nearly scalped Alexandre Despatie in a practice session six weeks ago, is suddenly his best and surest one.

That the Canadian has mastered the inward 3.5-somersault and nailed it during preliminaries provides the good news going into Tuesday’s final in the men’s individual three-metre springboard at the Olympic Aquatic Centre.

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The less-than-auspicious news concerns the double Olympic medalist’s hopes for a podium finish, already dimmed by his gruesome training accident in Madrid.

Because of injury-curtailed training, the 27-year-old former world champion has decided to omit the reverse 3.5-somersault from his list to go with a version with a lower degree of difficulty – a move designed to foster confidence and consistency.

“I had to make a decision: Do I go with a dive that could end up not being a dive or do I go with something that’s more of a sure thing?” Despatie said after a preliminary session in which not one, but two, athletes registered a 0.00 after badly flubbing their dives.

Though Despatie has included the high-scoring forward 4.5-somersault for the final – a dive he’s only landed once in competition this year – the decision on the reverse could, in theory, cost him precious points he’d need for a medal.

The virtues of a high degree of difficulty were brilliantly illustrated by Canadian teammate François Imbeau-Dulac, who qualified for his first Olympic semi-final by pulling out a pair of complex dives at the end of the six-dive preliminary round.

“I was shaky at the beginning, but as the evening went on I could feel the tension dissipate because it was finally true, I was an Olympian,” said Imbeau-Dulac, a 21-year-old from St. Lazare, Que., who finished 12th but could be hard-pressed to make the final.

Despatie, who ended up in ninth, is just happy to have put in a strong set of mistake-free dives.

“I was a little nervous beforehand …I feel much better now,” he said.

The Laval, Que., native allowed coach Arturo Miranda tried to convince him to include the reverse 3.5, but the need for consistency won out.

“That’s the key in diving,” he said. “This is not the time to start thinking, ‘If I don’t do this dive it affects my medal chances.’”

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