WHEN City of Sheffield diver Monique Gladding suffered a horrific accident which nearly killed her, all she could think about was getting back to her beloved sport.
Now, a year on, the 30-year-old is competing for a place in Team GB for this summer’s Olympics.
And she was due to find out if she was successful today after competing in the British National Championships at Ponds Forge in Sheffield over the weekend.
The South African-born synchronised diver, who trains with the City of Sheffield club and lives in the city, said: “For any athlete, competing at the Olympics is the opportunity of a lifetime.
“But for me, the chance to be in this summer’s Games is even more of a miracle because last year I nearly lost my life diving.”
Monique was competing at the FINA Diving Grand Prix in Russia when she took off from the 10m platform and smacked her head on the board mid-somersault.
She said: “Hitting the 18in-thick concrete at 35mph knocked me out instantly and sliced a layer of skin and flesh from the top of my head.
“I plummeted to the bottom of the pool, where I lay unconscious for 20 seconds.
“I owe my life to the fast reactions of my husband and coach, Steve, and my team-mate, Nick Robinson-Baker, who both dived in to save me.
“Another 10 seconds in the water and I could have been dead or brain-damaged.
“I lost a lot of blood and was drifting in and out of consciousness on the way to hospital.”
Monique said her family and friends expected her to quit diving, but as soon as her injuries began to heal, all she could think about was returning to the board.
She said: “My family and friends were horrified. Steve said he couldn’t coach me any more because the memory of seeing me so badly hurt was too traumatic, but I was determined, so they eventually came around to the reality I was going to dive again.”
Three months after her accident, Monique finished fifth at the National Championships, while she was 10th in February’s World Cup.
She said: “Now, a year on, I’m within touching distance of the London 2012 Olympics and it feels incredible.
“When I close my eyes, I can see myself poised on the 10m board in the Aquatic Centre.
“I hope the way I came back to the sport will inspire others to never give up on their dreams.”
■ Read the full interview with Monique in the July issue of Zest, on sale today.