Adriana Jimenez, who won gold at the FINA high Diving world Cup in Abu Dhabi last week, was so hyperactive as a kid, her mum knew she needed to find a solution – although most parents wouldn’t consider throwing their child off a 20m platform into the freezing water below to be a good one.
What started as a love for swimming soon turned into an aptitude for diving, and although she missed out on a place in the Mexico Olympic team for the 10m platform at Athens 2004, the seed had been planted.
Less than 10 years later the sport of high diving debuted professionally at the 2013 world Aquatics Championships in Barcelona and Jimenez has become one of the sport’s biggest names. She now hurls herself into the water from 20m and hopes to go to the 2020 Games with FINA asking the international Olympic Committee for high diving’s inclusion just days ago.
What’s it like to win in Abu Dhabi, with victory bringing you a first FINA medal?
I’m so happy. I was just focused on what I had to do and it’s a dream come true. I’ve been working to be here the last two or three years. It was a dream of mine many years ago and I’m just so grateful to be here. It’s a beautiful moment.
During the event we could see you talking, smiling and encouraging other competitors, both male and female. Why is that?
Well everybody has helped me and supported me a lot. Every diver in my life is special to me and we are a family. We’re not opponents, we are brothers and sisters. The most important thing for us is to be safe. It’s a very risky sport so it’s important to be safe and enjoy the competition.
Golden girl: Jimenez (top centre) at the medal ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
How did you get involved in such a crazy and risky sport?
Well you have to be a little bit crazy to compete, for sure. In my case I was a 10m diver before but could not get one of my country’s three Olympic Games places for Athens in 2004. I was so close to going in 2004. Ten years later I became a high diver and did some shows in Belgium and Colombia. I found I had some talent for this so I took the decision to become a high diver. And the federation (FINA) opened up the doors for me.
Why did you decide to get into diving in the first place?
My mum wanted to find an activity for me because I was hyperactive when I was little. She had this idea for me to go swimming and then took me for a test to go diving. We never thought about a professional career but little by little my level increased and I started to compete.
When you’re 20m above the water, how do you put the fear out of your mind?
I visualise many times before of being there, and that helps me a lot. In that moment you can feel your heart beating so hard but you have to be focused and have love for what you’re doing. Not too many people are here doing it and we are lucky. I have to be focused and do what I do with love.
It’s a relatively new sport, becoming professional only in 2013. What do you see for the future of high diving?
Wow, it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to be a part of it and the sport becoming an Olympic sport. Because I think it deserves to be.
What kind of training regime do you undertake for diving?
It’s hard work and we have to prepare well, with strength work in the gym. Also on dry land too, like running, and of course practicing diving, for sure. We don’t have facilities of higher than 10m in Mexico so we divide the dive into three parts. The take off, the middle of the dive, so the execution, and then the entry into the water. We train them separately and at different heights. It’s also a mental game too so there’s lots of mental preparation. I have as part of my team nutritionists, a psychologist and my coach, as well as my family. They’re part of my crew. It’s a job we do altogether and it’s working very well.
How realistic do you think it is that it will be an Olympic-sanctioned sport in time for 2020?
Hopefully it will become an Olympic sport by then. It has everything to be an Olympic sport.
It’s spectacular, you have great athletes, the audiences are great and the media coverage is perfect, the camera angles and pictures, so it has everything.
It’s also edgy and exciting. Do you think it can draw in a new crowd? Exactly. It’s a little bit out there. It’s an extreme sport and it looks great. All the athletes are very professional. It looks easy and pretty too so the public can enjoy it.
You almost made the Olympics before, so how special would it be if you could make it?
Imagine that. It would be magic. It’s another dream that I want to come true. It would be a special moment for me.
How do you like Abu Dhabi, with the F1 track and Yas Viceroy hotel in the background?
Wow. I love it. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever competed in and my favourite for now. It’s a nice mix, the track in the background and all the views of the beautiful buildings. It’s a nice environment and people are so friendly.
There are no Arab divers competing yet, but what do you think about the possibility of some joining in the future?
I don’t know. It’s kind of a new sport, so it’s growing little by little and we hope it will be an Olympic sport soon. But we invite people to join and hopefully we will have an Arabic member in this family soon.