BARCELONA: In diving terms Irina Lashko and Dmitry Sautin would be considered as over the hill.
But despite the many medals they have accumulated during their long careers the duo are still hungry for success.
Faced with competition from vastly younger competitors and battle-scarred by the injuries they have fought their back from over the years both struck gold at the World Swimming Championships here this week.
Sautin notched up his fifth world title, this time in the 3m synchronised springboard, and the 29-year-old Russian is preparing to collect more silverware in the men’s 3m individual springboard event.
Meanwhile 30-year-old Lashko, who has been winning gold medals since the age of 14, showed that it is possible to combine both motherhood with success in one of the world’s most technically tough sports.
“I feel quite old, but you do it because you want to do it,” said the lean, but muscular Lashko after claiming Australia’s first women’s title in either a World Championships or Olympics in the 1m springboard.
After almost failing to make it into the finals, Lashko left it until her last dive to clinch victory ahead of Germany’s Conny Schmalfuss with defending world champion Blythe Hartley of Canada having to settle for bronze.
But the Russian-born diver admitted that despite being a physically challenging sport, it was one where experience could also pay off.
“I nearly lost it in the semis but I steeled myself to get back,” she explained. “The final is like a new battle.”
And even then, when trailing as Hartley led the first four rounds, Lashko knew she could come back even knowing her competitors had bigger dives planned.
“It’s still possible to come back from nowhere, that’s what's great about diving.”
Despite her love of the sport, Lashko admitted that it could be tough juggling both her driving ambition to dive and being mother of a daugher who will be nine years old in August.
“I practice every day, and I’m diving when my child comes running in and says 'play with me’ and I have to say 'leave me alone I’m tired’.
“But I love this. I’m just training every day giving the best of myself. But I couldn’t do this alone, I do it with my coach.”
“I’m just happy to be a mother, wife and diver and I think it’s enough,” she added.
Lashko won her first world gold in the 1m when competing for Russia during the 1998 championships in Perth.
She married and attained Australian citizenship the following year, winning the 3m springboard world silver in Fukuoka, Japan, which was her adopted country’s first diving medal.
And her dream now is to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games.
The Olympics will be her fourth, making her only one of three women ever to compete in four Olympics in diving.
She has a chance to make history there again if she wins a medal by becoming the first woman ever to win medals at three separate Olympics in diving. – AFP