Canada's Alexandre Despatie was in an unfamiliar position at the FINA Diving World Cup on Tuesday.
After a knee injury derailed his hopes of early Olympic qualification last year, the pressure was tremendous given that this was his last chance to earn a spot in the individual three-metre competition at the 2012 Games.
Despatie came through when it counted, fighting through the nerves to book a ticket for London by finishing eighth in the preliminary round at the new Aquatics Centre.
Teammate Reuben Ross also locked up a spot with his 11th-place result. A top-18 finish was required to secure an Olympic berth.
The result was a big victory for Despatie in particular, since he just returned from a knee injury a month ago.
“I want to make that comeback,” he said on a conference call. “I want to hopefully come back stronger than I've ever been. I'm in great physical shape right now and now I need to put more diving inside of me.
“That's all I'm going to be doing.”
By this time in a usual four-year Olympic cycle, the multiple world champion would have had an Olympic ticket booked well in advance. But the injury caused him to miss a shot at an early qualifier at the 2011 world championships in Shanghai.
Despatie is confident he'll be in top form when the Games begin five months from now.
“I'm going to show up and have the tools to succeed and have the tools to be at my best and give myself the chance to be a contender,” he said. “From there — whatever happens, happens. Diving is one of those sports where anything can happen and competition sometimes has mysterious ways of unfolding.
“All I can do is put 200 per cent in my training and my focus and be the best diver that I can be in London this summer.”
Both Despatie, from Laval, Que., and Ross, from Regina, advanced to Wednesday's semifinals. On Monday, they earned another spot for London with a fifth-place finish in the three-metre synchronized event.
In diving, athletes secure places for their country in each event with the final list of Olympic competitors to be determined at national trials. But barring injuries, the same group will likely be diving at the Games.
Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., just missed the podium in the women's 10-metre tower final. She finished fourth with 348.90 points, less than two points away from a bronze.
It was the best international result of her career in the event.
“I'm extremely pleased with my performance especially that I improved through the prelims, semis and final,” said Filion. “All my dives in the final were very good. It's a great way to start the year and I expect it will only get better.”
Chen Ruolin won gold and Hu Yadan, also of China, took silver. Yulia Koltunova of Russia won bronze.
Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal was 13th in the semifinals and did not advance. Canada had already earned its two Olympic spots at the world championships last year as Filion and Benfeito finished in the top 12.
The women's 10-metre synchro final is on tap Wednesday.
Despatie has competed at the last three Summer Games and is still looking for that elusive Olympic gold. The 26-year-old won silver on the springboard at the 2004 and 2008 Games after finishing fourth off the platform at the 2000 Olympics.
The Aquatics Centre venue will host four events at this summer's Olympics and was given a big thumbs-up Monday when it opened its doors for competition for the first time. Thousands of fans have taken in the action at the sleek, wave-shaped venue.
Some 220 divers from 40 countries are competing at the World Cup.
With files from The Associated Press.
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