Melissa Wu will headline the largest Australian diving squad to head to an Olympic Games since 2012, while becoming the first Australian diver to make five Games.

Australia named its nine-strong squad that will compete in Paris at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre on Monday morning.

Wu, who will compete in the 10m platform alongside 17-year-old debutant Ellie Cole, heads a strong team featuring 2023 World Champion Cassiel Rousseau and 2016 bronze medal pairing Anabelle Smith and Maddison Keeney. 

“The Olympics is so special,” Wu told ABC Sport at the announcement.

“To be able to go to a fifth is an incredible thing that not many people get to do.”

Even Wu, who won a silver medal on debut in the 10m synchro with Briony Cole in Beijing, as well as a bronze in the individual in Tokyo, was far from a certainty to get on the plane.

“Going to nationals [where I earned my spot] was a little bit rough for me with some injury worries,” Wu said.

“I’ve been fairly injured the last few years but had a couple of substantial injuries leading in.

“I actually ended up with about four weeks of proper training … it was kind of quite down to the wire. 

“So for me, this trials, going in, was nerve wracking in that sense. 

“I knew I didn’t have the prep that I needed, not just in that bit, but the whole year basically.”

Melissa Wu spins in a dive

Melissa Wu suffered from injuries in the lead up to Nationals and the World Championships.(Getty Images: Xinhua/Xia Yifang)

Those injuries included a debilitating knee problem — Wu could not bend or straighten her knee a month out from trials — and a neck injury that required two cortisone injections in the lead up to the trials.

That is on top of the impact injury she suffered when competing on SAS Australia which led to a back problem.

It was that which led to a performance at the World Championships in February that Wu was unhappy with.

Given Wu’s history of dealing with nerves, the reduced and very structured lead into the nationals, which Wu won to seal her nomination to the Olympic team, helped deal with them.

“Knowing I had that really short time frame, I basically didn’t have a choice but to make a plan of how I was going to get there,” Wu said.

“I think that was probably a good thing in a sense because it was so kind of black and white for me. 

“I didn’t really have a chance to get too nervous about it because I knew I just had to follow this process down to the day of of competition, and I just basically trusted in all the mindset work I did.

“Just knowing that I had done everything I possibly could and whatever happened happened, that kind of helped me as well.”

Melissa Wu looks to one side

Melissa Wu said she will be a mentor figure to the team’s younger divers.(AAP Image: Jason O’Brien)

Now, Wu will appear at a fifth Olympics, something only eight other divers in the history of the sport have achieved.

That includes Japanese stalwart Ken Terauchi — the only diver to appear at six Games — Italians Franco Cagnotto and Tania Cagnotto, South Korean Leong Mun Yee and the most decorated diver of all time, Russian Dmitry Sautin.

British diver Tom Daley will also appear at his fifth Games in Paris.

“It’s an incredible feeling and I think, given that the Olympics are four years apart, each Olympics definitely feels different because you’re at a different stage of your life,” Wu said.

“It kind of marks every time I think of an Olympics, I think of the experience of going there and what it meant to make the team, but, really I remember it in terms of where I was at at that point in my life. 

“So this time around it, this one was a bit of a shorter turn around from Tokyo because we had the extra year, but again, it feels like a different phase of life for me: Getting married and things like that and just knowing that you never know when it will be your last competition. 

“So I think just soaking it up this time and enjoying it, having come off the bronze in Tokyo where that was like, my whole life working for that moment. 

“Now I feel, having done that, I can just appreciate it more be grateful and really enjoy the experience and what it means to compete for Australia at the Olympics.”

ABC Sport will be live blogging every day of the Paris Olympics from July 27 (Australian time).

Four debutants shooting for Olympic success

The Australian Diving team pose for a selfie

Australia will send a nine-strong diving team to Paris — its biggest since 2012.(Getty Images: AOC/Chris Hyde)

Wu acknowledged that she would be a role model for some of the younger athletes on the team, especially the four debutants set to make their Olympic bow in Paris.

Teenagers Jaxon Bowshire and Ellie Cole, as well as 25-year-old Kurtis Mathews and 22-year-old Alysha Koloi will all make their debuts in the French capital.

Koloi, who finished second behind Maddison Keeney in the 3m springboard event at last week’s nationals to seal her selection, said it had not quite sunk in yet.

“To be honest, I haven’t really slept much this week with the amount of excitement and nerves competing in Paris,” Koloi, 1m springboard world champion, told ABC Sport.

“But I think the moment of realisation is slowly creeping in.

Alysha Koloi dives backwards

Alysha Koloi is the world champion on the 1m springboard.(Getty Images: Xinhua/Du Yu)

“Seeing my name come second at nationals was a huge shock and I was just in tears for probably about an hour.

“We’ve got a really strong team on 3m springboard, the girls push you so hard.”

For Keeney, who missed selection for the Tokyo Games, the return to Olympic competition is just one part of her career.

“It’s strange because I’ve kind of thought about this over the last few weeks, even though my last Games was eight years ago, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t done anything for the last eight years. The only team that I’ve missed in the last eight years was the Tokyo team,” Keeney, who earlier this year won the mixed 3m synchro gold at the World Championships, explained.

“But a lot’s changed in eight years. I’ve got a lot more hindsight, a lot more experience into who I am as a person and who I am as an athlete as well. 

“So I think that gives me a lot of clarity over what I want out of my career.

“The timing was wrong for me with with Tokyo. The event that I’m in is very strong and so I just wasn’t good enough on the on the day.”

Maddison Keeney and Domonic Bedggood pose holding their hands above their head

Maddison Keeney and Domonic Bedggood won the mixed 3m synchronised final at the World Aquatics Championships in February.(Getty Images: Xinhua/Xia Yifang)

It is a slightly different situation for two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Domonic Bedggood, the other half of Australia’s World Championship winning mixed synchro team and 10m platform partner of Cassiel Rousseau.

Bedggood took some time away from the sport during COVID to reset, before returning to retire on his terms, crediting his family and his coach, 2004 Olympic silver medallist Matt Helm for getting him back.

“It is something that I am grateful I did because, at the time — and I think a lot of athletes can speak on this — COVID was very tough and a moment of testing your mental capacity to push through that,” Bedggood told ABC Sport.

“It was the right decision at the time to step back from diving. 

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back or not. I kind of just needed to have a break from the sporting world and be around family and friends and reassess what I wanted to do. 

“I’m very grateful and fortunate to have those people in my life and they really helped me make the decision to come back and finish on my terms.”

His synchro partner, 2023 World Champion Cassiel Rousseau, will be enjoying something of a homecoming.

Rousseau’s mother is from Paris and will be poolside at the Centre Aquatique Olympique watching her son in international competition for the very first time. 

“I don’t know if they’ll support me or not,” Rousseau told ABC Sport of the French crowd.

“I don’t really feel any pressure at all. Even with being the world champion from last year, I know there’s gonna be a lot more eyes on me to compete pretty well this year, but in terms of like how I feel about it, I don’t feel any pressure whatsoever.”

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