Alex Despatie hates to lose and you have to love that. At the world aquatics championships in Rome, Italy, Thursday, Despatie won a bronze medal on the three-metre springboard behind divers from China and the United States, his second medal of the championships, but there was no celebration — no claim that he’s over the moon with the result.
“There wasn’t anything really spectacular today,” Despatie deadpanned in the aftermath. “There certainly wasn’t from me anyways.”
Indeed, Canada’s king of the deep, the most decorated diver in this country’s history, was very good, but not up to his often spectacular standards. With one dive left to deliver and ranking second he had a world championship title within his grasp, but came up slightly short. He was forced to settle for third place and the eighth medal of his illustrious world championship career to go along with two silver medals in Olympic competition.
“I guess I’m on the podium,” he shrugged. “But the London Olympics are very far away, so I won’t take too much from the result today.”
It’s been a difficult couple of years for Despatie. He fought back from a broken bone in his foot to win a dramatic silver medal in Beijing last summer. This competitive year has been a near washout because of his struggle with an aching back. Still, he sets his jaw and loves to compete in pressure-filled situations and that’s been his trademark since winning a Commonwealth Games title in 1998 in Malaysia as a tiny 13-year-old.
“He’s the most prolific diver ever in Canada, bar none,” said Penny Joyce, the head of Diving Canada. “He feels like he’s a veteran now, but he’s got a lot left in him … trust me.”
At 24, Despatie has been at or near the top of his game for more than a decade and suddenly he’s the senior diver on the team. He’s led the way for a long time and he’s bound to keep paving the way in the future. This time he was forced to settle.
“I got a bronze medal, so I guess I can’t be mad about that,” Despatie shrugged.
But he clearly was angry and that’s probably a good sign.
Alex Despatie will likely resurface as the monarch of the diving world someday soon.
– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.