Melissa Wu stuns Chinese divers and wins Italian fans
4 June 2006
Diving sensation Melissa Wu captured the hearts of all Australians during the Commonwealth Games and now she has taken a stunning leap to stardom during her first major international event overseas.
The 14-year-old Brisbane schoolgirl produced the best individual performance of her short but amazing career when she finished second – beaten by just 0.90 of a point by China’s rising star Yuan Peilin at the FINA Grand Prix meet in Rome.
Divers from 25 countries braved freezing conditions in the outdoor complex with temperatures dropping as low as 10 degrees, but it did not stop the tiny-tot from Australia.
“I’m so proud of my performance. To finish second and to be beaten by less than a point on my first overseas competition is awesome,” Wu said.
“But the key to my success was just staying warm. It was freezing and at times we had to battle not just the cold but also rain and hail which interrupted the warm ups.
“The most exciting thing was to really nail my back three-and-a-half – and it was the without doubt my best ever performance.”
Australian team manager Brendan Purcell and Australian head coach Hui Tong were again stunned by the youngster’s performance.
“Melissa led through the first three rounds of dives in the final, the highlight being her back three-and-a-half tuck, the dive she dropped during the Commonwealth Games preliminaries which scored two 10s and the rest 9.5s.
“She was overtaken in the fourth round by a brilliant back three-and-a-half tuck dive by Yuan, who went into the final round with a four point lead - with both divers doing the same dive, back twister.
“Again Melissa scored high gaining 8.5s and 9s but was unable to overtake Yuan,” Purcell said.
Yuan Peilin won gold for China in the 10m Synchro at last year’s FINA World Championships in Montreal and placed fifth in the individual 10m.
Purcell, who has followed Wu’s rise to prominence closely as the Diving Australia High Performance manager, said she had gained a fan club following in Italy with the local Italian junior divers watching the competition and barracking for her and wanting to talk with her afterwards.
Australia’s other diver, Sydney’s Alex Croak, the 2000 Olympic gymnast, was unlucky not to make the final after finishing third to Wu during the preliminaries and third again to Wu in her semi-final – with the top two from each semi-final advancing to the final.
Wu and Croak will combine in the10m synchro on Sunday and Purcell said: “If the indications of their training and today’s competition are any indication then we should see a good performance.”
In other events Scott Robertson finished 22nd and Matthew Mitcham 27th in a disappointing 3m competition.