Mexican divers hope to put one over Chinese at London Olympics


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is counting on the youthful energy and ambition of teenager Carolina Mendoza to complement the experience of 2009 world champion Paola Espinosa as they bid to upstage China's divers at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Mendoza was just 14 when she booked her ticket in February for the July 27-August 12 Games in London.

"Really, I still can't believe it," Mendoza told Reuters in an interview.

"There's my coach telling me I've done something no-one had achieved before and I'm just acting normal, happy and excited, I just keep training to reach the Olympic Games in good shape.

"I know I'm the youngest but I'm still a competitor, I'm going for the same thing, (a medal), I'll give my best to realise my dreams and at my age I think I'll enjoy it a lot.

"I get up every day saying to myself I'm the best and I train for that," said Mendoza, now 15.

With great energy and a permanent smile on her face, Mendoza moves around the sports complex where she trains imagining a future with many Olympics.

"Anyway, after going to five Olympic Games I think I'll have a family," said Mendoza, still unsure what to study at university - medicine or communications.

Espinosa, Mexico's flag bearer at the 2008 Beijing Games where she won bronze in the 10-metre synchronised platform with Tatiana Ortiz, has a more cautious approach.

"It's too early to say what's going to happen, I like to go step by step and right now my goal is these Games. I couldn't say how many (Games) but the amount doesn't matter, rather to do well and get a good result at each," the 25-year-old added.

MEXICAN TRADITION

A diving tradition that has given Mexico several medals since a bronze won by Joaquin Capilla in London in 1948 dates back to 1934 at "La Quebrada", a 35-metre Cliff at Acapulco where locals risked their lives taking dives into the Pacific Ocean.

"I think Mexico has talent for this sport, physically we're strong and fast and what we've tried to change is the mentality of Mexican divers," said Espinosa, who starts competition in the 10-metre platform on July 31, her 26th birthday.

"We used to go hoping for the best, now we believe we can do things and achieve success."

Espinosa, 2011 Pan-American champion in the 10-metre platform, synchronised platform and synchro springboard, said her path to the top was tough and that she opened doors for Mexican divers to shine internationally.

"No-one opened doors for me, I had to open them and I'm satisfied because I didn't get anything from anyone. I always loved this sport and I think if I'd had to take up another I don't think I'd have liked it as much," she said.

London will not be easy, though, because the Mexican pair will be facing tough opposition from China, headed by 19-year-old Chen Ruolin, who is favourite to retain her Olympic title.

"The Olympic Games is a competition that's quite different from what we face day to day. I can't name a country (that stands out) though obviously the Chinese are the rivals to beat but in the end anyone can win and produce a surprise," Espinosa said.

"I have lots of dreams, now it's to win a medal, they're barriers you have to break to get to where you want to," added Mendoza, who for good luck competes in a swimsuit that belonged to a Mexican diving team mate killed in a car crash.

"Whenever I compete I bring with me a suit that was of a friend who died a year ago, she was called Diana Diaz."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford; peter.rutherford@thomsonreuters.com; +65 6870 3817 Reuters; Messaging: peter.rutherford.reuters.com@reuters.net; )

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