If it feels like you’ve known the name Melissa Wu for a very, very long time it’s probably because you have.
Remember the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games? A 13-year-old Wu won silver in the 10m synchronised platform diving.
Wu with her bronze medal. Credit:Getty Images
Two years later, aged 16, she won silver at the same event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
What you might not know is the tragedy she had to overcome, and the demons she’s had to face in the meantime.
Since Beijing, Wu went a whole two Olympics – London and Rio – without an individual medal, or any for that matter. She finished fourth in London and sixth in Rio.
That drought ended on Thursday, as Wu dived superbly to win bronze in the hugely competitive 10-metres individual platform event.
Melissa Wu competes in the women’s 10m platform.Credit:Getty
Wu’s high level of consistency earned her that medal, scoring above 73 for all but one of her dives, and finishing with her strongest effort last; a back two-and-a-half somersault with one-and-a-half twist for a score of 81.60.
The two women – actually children – who beat Wu can only be described as forces of nature, a pair of teenagers from China’s outrageously good diving team, which has won six gold medals and four silver medals in Tokyo.
Hongchan Quan, aged 14, won with 466.20 points. Three of her dives were awarded 96 points and one other 95.70. Her teammate, 15-year-old Yuxi Chen, came second with 425.40 points.
Considering that opposition, the near-misses in Rio and London, and the difficulty and tragedy in Wu’s life since Beijing, the bronze medal was sweet reward for persistence.
“I have had lots of challenges in my life but diving has always kept me grounded and given me goals to focus on. I am so glad,” she said after winning bronze.
“I have been waiting a long time [for another Olympic medal] and it feels amazing. I have been so lucky to have such a long career.”
Wu was diagnosed with depression at age 17, the year after winning the synchronised 10m platform medal in Beijing.
“I can’t explain how it all started, but I can tell you how it felt. I didn’t just feel down. I lost all self-confidence. I hated myself at a very deep level. I felt trapped and I didn’t know what to do about it,” Wu wrote in Athlete’s Voice in 2017.
“It snowballed, got worse and worse. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to, that nobody would understand. I didn’t know anyone who was going through it. I was still training and competing, but I had a terrible year of competition.
“I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to live, pretty much.”
Wu moved from Brisbane to Sydney, got help for her condition, and was able to begin recovery.
But in 2014 Wu’s sister Kirsten committed suicide. Wu took time off but when she tried to come back her body and mind had changed. It took her time to get back to her best.
Wu got it back. She finished sixth in Rio.
“I definitely have been thinking about her,” Wu told The Age and the Herald in Rio. “It’s been really hard. I achieved something so big and to not be able to share it with someone you’re that close to … I know she’s always with me and I have her now in a way I didn’t have before. I get to share this in a different way with her.
“I appreciate these Olympics a lot more because I have been through a lot these last few years,” Wu said. “To be able to overcome that and see what I am made of is a huge achievement. I’m finally proud of myself, it’s taken a while, but you take the good with the bad.”
Wu has previously admitted she may not have qualified for the Games if they went ahead in 2020 as scheduled, having suffered shoulder and rib injuries.
Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: 13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au
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