Maddison Keeney bombed a gold medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games when she baulked on her second-last dive, to the one who became an unwilling YouTube sensation after she scored zero points when she failed on her last dive in the 1m competition at the 2015 world titles in Kazan, to an Olympic bronze medallist in the 3m synchro event in Rio.
And now, at 21, she is the world champion in the 1m springboard after finally getting a grip on the competition nerves that plagued her as a teenager.
Keeney put the Australian team on the medal table early as the world aquatic championships, which also feature swimming, water polo and synchronised swimming, began in Budapest.
Everyone in Australian diving has known for years that Keeney had the potential to do this, once she figured out how to keep calm under pressure. Keeney has the biggest dive list in the women’s competition and it was just a matter of time and experience before she delivered on her exceptional talent.
In Budapest yesterday, she wobbled slightly on her fourth dive, a 3½ somersault, and dropped from first to second, but she came roaring back in the final round to complete the toughest dive in the competition, a 2½ front somersault with a twist, and earn the highest score of the day, 73.60 points, which clinched the gold medal and banished her past agonies.
She won with 314.95 points, from Russia’s Nadezhda Bazhina (304.70) and Italy’s Elena Bertocchi (296.40) completing a rare podium without a Chinese representative in the sport they dominate.
“It feels incredible, but also very relieving,” an elated Keeney said afterwards. “To be honest, I was relieved as soon as I did my hurdle on the board, because I have a lot of bad memories from two years ago that I want to overwrite.
“And so being able to put a performance on that I could be proud of was the most important thing. And I was hoping so much that I would finally be able to win this event after so many attempts.”
Keeney will now turn her attention to the 3m events and will take greater confidence into the rest of the week.
“It’s something I have been dreaming of for a long time, and so I hope I can use this as a stepping stone for my 3m,” Keeney said. “I got very emotional at the end because my parents are here and they were really happy and proud. It was a great feeling being able to share these special moments with them.
She will return tonight with her Olympic medal-winning partner Anabelle Smith to contest the 3m synchro event.
In other results, Melissa Wu and Domonic Bedggood finished seventh in the platform mixed synchro, while Kevin Chavez and Matthew Carter finished 12th in the men’s 3m synchro.
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