IT’S never too late to pursue one’s dream – or even to pick up from where you left off. Ask springboard specialist He Chao (pic).
The Chinese diver, now 31, came out of retirement two years ago to pursue his goal to become an Olympic champion although he had retired after failing to make the podium at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
At Rio, he had wanted to follow in the footsteps of his brother He Chong, the men’s 3m springboard individual champion at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but made a mistake in the preliminaries and subsequently missed out on the top 18 semi-finals.
He Chao then decided to give up diving. He had been the favourite in Rio as he had gone in as the reigning world champion. He had also won the 1m springboard gold medal and the 3m springboard silver at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014.
After retiring, He Chao spent the next two years travelling and just resting.
“The blow in 2016 was very huge. I went to Rio with great expectations but the result was not as good as I imagined. I fell from the top to the bottom that day.
“I decided to let go of everything. After more than 20 years of training, it was a good time to relax,” said He Chao, recounting his experience for the last few years after winning the men’s 3m springboard synchro gold medal with Yan Siyu on Saturday.
However, the lure of the pool continued to pull at him and became strong again after he watched the Tokyo Olympic diving competition.
“I have repeatedly asked myself: ‘Are you really ready to let go? Are you really willing to leave? Are you just giving up on the hard work of the past 20 years?
“Not many new divers had emerged so I just thought that maybe I would have a chance. I just wanted to come back and fight to forget the regret of Rio.”
It was an extremely difficult return.
“In my first year after returning, I lost 15 pounds in just one month but I knew in my heart that every drop of sweat mattered.”
At his first competition after his comeback – the national diving championship – He Chao rook one gold and one bronze.
“This was really important to me, because it was my first competition in five years after 2017.
“This Asian Games is also my first international competition and I felt nervous but I’m glad I lived up to the trust of the team in me,” said He Chao, whose next goal is to qualify for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, next year.