|Former gymnast Alexandra Croak is a member of the strong Australian diving team at the 2008 Olympics.
IG talks with former Aussie gymnast Alexandra Croak, who hopes to make a splash in Beijing as a diver.
Croak, a 2000 Olympian in gymnastics, finished an impressive fourth Wednesday in the 10-meter platform preliminaries (Click here for results). The 24 year old is among a handful of athletes who competed in the Olympic Games in two different sports.
Croak was a member of Australia's seventh-place team at the 2000 Olympic Games in her native Sydney. She competed at the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, where Australia also placed seventh. She ended her gymnastics career following the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, where her team won the gold medal and she placed second on vault.
She took up diving in 2004, and two years later was a silver medalist in the 10-meter synchro at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. She is the first Australian woman to represent two different sports at the Games.
As a gymnast, she moved from New South Wales to train at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. She's now back in NSW, training with coach Salvador Sobrino at the New South Wales Institute of Sport. She attends Sydney University where she is studying to become an occupational therapist.
IG caught up with Croak about her transition to diving, the details of her new sport and her medal hopes for Beijing.
IG: You won Australian Nationals in 2002, but didn't compete in Anaheim or Athens. When and why did you decide to retire?
AC: Well, I retired after the 2002 Commonwealth Games because I had achieved everything I wanted to which was an Olympic Games, World Champs, Commonwealth Games and a national title. I had many ongoing injuries and so decided to stop, let my body heal and move on to the next chapter in my life.
Croak on uneven bars in 2000
IG: How did you get into diving?
AC: After 18 months of "retirement" I got into diving because I missed sport. I didn't want to make a comeback in gymnastics because of my body and age. I had been offered a scholarship to take up aerial skiing but turned that down quickly. Then I just decided on diving as my gymnastics background definitely could contribute to the sport.
IG: Do your years of gymnastics give you an advantage over other divers? Did a lot of them begin in gymnastics?
AC: In some ways yes and in other ways no. Yes, in that I have competed for many years — be it in another sport. No, because the sport is still unfamiliar to me, even competitions feel different than in gymnastics and I guess that comes from the unfamiliarity of the sport. Many divers do gymnastics first, but what kid doesn't really? I just decided very late that it was what I wanted to do!
IG: Gymnasts are trained to land on their feet. Was it difficult for you to learn how to "land" head first?
AC: It was slightly challenging at first to land upside down, but I picked it up relatively quickly. It was hard to go from years and years of landing feet first to comprehend landing on your head, but it's not so bad. I would not like to go back to gym now and land head first by accident! At least in diving you're safe if you land on your feet by accident.
IG: How does the training schedule differ for diving versus gymnastics?
AC: It is hard to say the difference in schedules because I am at a totally different stage in my life. I study full time at University which takes up to 30 hours per week and I train around 25 hours per week. I also work part time on weekends to make ends meet. In comparison as a gymnast, everything was dedicated to training and we were doing 35-plus hours per week. Our education was minimal so it is just different. I realise I now have more of a balance in life and love the challenges that my busy schedule brings me! I was a gymnast from the age of 4 till 18, I was a child. I started diving at 19 and am now 24 and am an adult. Unfortunately also with age comes responsibility!
As a diver, Croak has put her twisting skills to new use.
IG: Does diving have a high injury rate like gymnastics, or do you think it's easier on the body?
AC: For my body type I definitely believe diving is better on my body. I had many injuries as a gymmie and my body likes the less-intense movements far better in diving compared to gym.
IG: Australia gymnastics had two potential Olympians, Hollie Dykes and Chloe Sims, quit in the past year. Do you have an opinion on this? Do you think elite gymnastics is too hard?
AC: I think gymnastics at an elite level is very tough, but what sport isn't? All sports are very intense and demanding at such a high level. Hollie was a young gymnast at my gym so I know her quite well. I was shocked to hear of her retirement and offered to help her if she needed it or needed to discuss things. All sports are difficult and sometimes it's just hard to deal with all the various aspects that sport demands from you.
IG: Like gymnastics, diving is a subjectively judged sport, but doesn't seem to be controversial. What can the gymnastics judging system learn from diving?
AC: As for judging, I have no idea! I don't even understand the new system of judging that took over. I have not taken the time to learn and of course the code has changed since I was doing gymnastics. But I can't really comment on judging, I don't really know much about it.
IG: What are your goals for Beijing? Do you think you have a medal chance?
AC: I believe that anything in diving is possible and if I hit all my dives consecutively then a medal is definitely not out of reach. Australians are pretty up there with the rest of the world at the moment in diving so medals are not unrealistic.