Glasgow: Emerging Australian diver Maddison Keeney had a Commonwealth Games marred by two crucial errors but Australian team coach Chava Sobrino believes that she has the potential to be the world's best.
Sobrino, who coaches the likes of Matthew Mitcham and three metre springboard gold medallist Esther Qin, said Keeney was the most powerful diver in the world, making her capable of a range of high degree of difficulty dives, and only needed to improve her poise and balance to become "unbeatable".
Keeney twice cost herself chances at gold medals at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh where the diving events were held. She aborted one of her dives in the one metre platform and was penalised 14 points but remarkably remained composed enough to win the silver medal, only 5.30 points behind Canada's Jennifer Abel.
In the three metre, she again misjudged a dive, her feet clipping the springboard and resulting in a low score, but she again fought back to finish equal fourth.
"Maddison's the most powerful on the circuit out of any country so once she learns how to control her balance and all that she'll be unbeatable," Sobrino said.
"She could end up with the highest difficulty degree list in the world."
Australia won two gold – to Esther Qin in the three metre springboard and Matthew Mitcham and Domonic Bedggood in the synchronised 10 metre platform – and three silver and three bronze to finish behind England, which won four golds, three silvers and three bronze and Canada (three gold, two silver, two bronze).
It was a disappointing result for the team, which won 15 medals in Delhi, including two golds, because along with Keeney, 10 metre platform favourite Melissa Wu also cost herself a chance of a gold medal when her foot slipped on takeoff, resulting in her spearing into the water feet first. It was scored a no-dive on her first dive and she scored no points.
He said the divers' performance could have been affected by also having the major championship of the year, the World Cup in Shanghai, just a week before the Commonwealth Games diving competition started.
"In Delhi it (the performance) was a little bit more clean," Sobrino said. "Here we had some spectacular things but we had some really bad things too.
"We had two hell days at the beginning and we started on the back foot.
"I don't know what happened. There were a couple of situations like Melissa. I came to this competition thinking that we're going to win because Melissa's level is higher than anybody else here then she fails a dive at the beginning.
"I still don't really know what happened, but something happened. It wasn't anything to do with technique or bad preparation – she's ranked at the moment No.2 in the world [but] that happened.
"Melissa's very focused, very self driven and very strong. Ninety per cent [of divers] would have pulled out [after the no-dive and say] 'what's the point of competing?'," Sobrino said.
"I asked Melissa if she wanted to pull out, and she said 'I'm going to keep going', and that to me shows a lot of courage. She's very tough.
"I didn't feel angry, I just felt sad for her because she didn't deserve that," he said.
Sobrino praised the springboard talent that was seen in Edinburgh, with the likes of Qin, who spent her early training in China before her family moved to Australia five years ago, Brisbane school girl Georgia Sheehan and Keeney.
Mitcham's gold medal has prompted him to rethink his plans to retire, the 2008 Olympic 10 metre platform champion instead investigating ways to limit his diving to the synchronised events, with an eye to a possible gold medal at the 2016 Olympics.
He said the results showed that Australia was beginning to struggle against countries such as England that had huge investment in the lead up to the London Olympic Games.
"The resources that they've had absolutely thrown at them, they haven't even been able to use all the money that they've had thrown at them over the last six years leading into the London Games," Mitcham said.
"That's been really, really helpful with the infrastructure and getting their programs and giving them opportunities to really improve the quality of their divers and I guess that's what we're going to have to do, throw more money into the sport.
"I know that it's a really obvious thing to say and there's not much money to throw around these days, but that's what it boils down to, money equals opportunities."
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