By Luke Voogt
Highton teen Rose Blackhall was devastated when a back condition forced her to give up gymnastics, so she plunged into the diving pool instead.
She had been competing for six years at an elite level before a doctor diagnosed her in 2017 with Scheuermann’s disease, which causes a compression of the spine.
“My doctor told me I would have to find a different sport – gymnastics wasn’t an option if I wanted to walk in my 30s,” the 14-year-old said.
But Rose refused to give up on sport and now has her sights set on diving for Australia in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After trying rock-climbing, cycling and dance, she began diving about 18 months ago.
“At first I wasn’t completely sold on it, because it was so similar to gymnastics and it had been so hard to give up that part of my life,” she said.
But after training with Melbourne Elite Diving Academy head coach Pavel Plotnikov, she was soon diving off the 10m platform.
“The fact that I’ve done it so quickly is crazy, it normally takes a few years,” she said.
“It’s a normal thing to be scared when you’re that high up. It’s not normal to fall 10m down onto your head
“But with all my gymnastics training, I had learnt to deal with fear, trust (my) coach and trust (myself). If it wasn’t safe your coach wouldn’t let you do it.”
Rose recently returned from Germany after making the finals of the International Youth Meet, the second most important junior competition in the world.
Several days earlier she won both her events in the Amsterdam Diving Cup.
And just a day after returning she came second in the Victorian Open Diving Competition against some of Australia’s best platform divers.
Rose qualified for the Australian Open Competition in Adelaide, the qualifier for World Championships, and the Elite Junior National Competition in Brisbane, both in June.
“Those are the competitions I really have to perform at if I want to have a shot at the Olympic team,” she said.
And she has a potent weapon in her diving arsenal: a back three-and-half tuck.
“I’m one of the few girls in the world who can do it,” she said.