GROWING up Merewether diver Sam Fricker was told a story - an urban myth - about a man whose stomach burst after he jumped off the 10-metre tower at Lambton Pool.
"I believed it, too," Fricker said. "I was like 'right I will never be going up there'."
Next month, Fricker will carry the hopes of a nation when he competes in the 10-metre platform at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The 19-year-old on Tuesday was one of four debutants named in the Australian diving team for the Games.
"When I was young I never would have thought that I would be a 10-metre diver," Fricker told the Newcastle Herald. "I always had dreams of going to the Olympics but I didn't know how I was going to get there. At the time, I was doing gymnastics and trampolining. Then I set my heart on the diving."
Fricker, 19, is part of a new-look men's team alongside Cassiel Rousseau, 20, and Shixin Li, 33.
"It was insane to hear my name read out," said Fricker, who grew up in Merewether before relocating to Sydney last year. "I got my ticket and [Olympic] jacket but it still feels surreal."
Fricker all but secured his spot when he finished second in the 10-metre platform at the Australian Championships in Sydney last week.
He scored 1198.65 points from 18 dives to take silver behind runaway winner Rousseau (1395.05).
"That was the most stressful competition of my life. I was so nervous," he said. "After the last dive I gave my coach a hug and knew 90 per cent that I had done everything I had to do. I hit the score, got the place."
The COVID-19 pandemic will mean the Tokyo Games is like no other.
"It will be different, but I have not been to an Olympics and have no expectations of what else it could be like," he said. "I am so excited to be on the team. I just want to be in the village, then get out and compete and soak every minute of it up."
After hopping between gymnastics and trampolining, Fricker was drawn to diving at age 11 and started training at Lambton Pool under Eric Brooker.
"I started diving with Eric and he is still involved with Diving Australia and FINA," Fricker said. "He will be at the Olympics and was there to see me make the team."
Based in Cronulla, Fricker trains five-hours a day at Homebush. His signature dive is an inward three-and-a-half somersault.
It is a far cry from his formation days at the pool.
"There was a story going around when I was a kid that a fat man jumped off the 10-metre tower and burst open his stomach," Fricker recalled. "I wasn't good enough to dive from the platform back then. But when I started training in Sydney at about age 13, I told the coach I had done platform before. I got up there and did a couple of basic dives. From that point I was on my way.
"I had tons of stacks. It is a big jump but you do it step by step. Your start with one-and -half somersault, then two-and-a-half ... you work your way up. It really is just trusting yourself and giving it a crack. I have made a fair few mistakes but you learn from those and keep going."
So how far can he go in Tokyo?
"The ultimate goal has always been to win gold at the Olympics," Fricker said. "For me now, it is make the final and then dive for your life and fight for it."
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