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Shock bronze for our synchronised divers

Shock bronze: Anabelle Smith and Maddison Keeney surprised everyone, including themselves, with a bronze medal in the 3m synchronised diving. Photo: Clive RoseFive minutes after the big screen at Rio’s Aquatic Centre flashed up Australia’s surprise bronze medal in the 3 metre springboard synchronised team diving, Anabelle Smith and Maddison Keeney stood shaking and shivering in the briefing room, ahead of the imminent medal ceremony.
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Smith, a dual Olympian, could think only of her make-up.

Handing me her mascara, she asked, “Could you unscrew this? My hands are shaking so much.”

Then she uttered the word so over-used by athletes, it has lost meaning: “This is unreal.”

But not on her younger, more talented Olympic debutant team mate who explained, “It’s not like real life.”

True. Real life does not usually place you among the also rans and suddenly propel you into fame and history.

Neither had any idea whether Australia had ever medalled at an Olympic Games in a team diving event.

“Maybe we have on the ten metre platform, but not recently,” Smith said.

A composed Keeney was able to retrieve her thoughts as she entered the pair’s final and fifth dive of the eight nation competition.

“I was feeling pretty relaxed. We were not really diving on our game. We were out there just enjoying it. I was thinking about fifth place.”

The pair outpointed Canada and Malaysia on the last dive to rocket to third.

China’s duo of Tingmao Shi and Minxia Wu were almost guaranteed of the gold medal after the fourth round.

The disciplined, expressionless pair allowed themselves a high five before bowing to the crowd.

The Italian pair were confident they had won a silver medal after they climbed from the pool midway through the final round, embracing and hugging their coaches.

The concentration required is immense. The sound of police sirens, loud music and unruly hand clapping compete with minds which must focus on technical dives, such as a forward two and a half somersault with twist and pike.

From last to third: The Australian pair were in last place after the first round. Photo: Clive Rose

If the name of this event is synchronised team diving, the slim, lithe bodies of the Chinese pair do literally move through the air and enter the water as one.

They don’t so much enter the water, they slip beneath its surface, after performing feats in the air which would humiliate an acrobat.

Their entry into the water is whisper quiet, compared to the splash of others.

Water bubbles to the surface after their dual entry, in a contained circle, whereas the wash from the last placed Brazilians seemed to cascade across the pool.

The Australians were last after the second round; sixth after round two and fifth after round four.

Their final dive put them into medal contention with a total of 299.19, with only Canada left to dive. But their score of 47.28 wasn’t enough to push the Aussies off the podium.

“We thought our last dive wasn’t that good,” said Keeney. “I fell pretty far forward.

“I think I’ve grown alot as a diver.”

She will also compete in the individual events, saying, “I’m really looking forward to getting into the water again.”

[View the story “FairfaxRegional/rio-games-2016-aussies-in-focus” on Storify]

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