NEWS

Alexandre Despatie in hospital after diving mishap

06/13/2012 08:30 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Celebrated Canadian diver Alexandre Despatie still intends to compete at the London Olympics, despite suffering a head injury in a training mishap Wednesday.

Despatie, considered a medal contender, underwent surgery at a Madrid hospital to close a significant gash on his forehead sustained in preparations for this week's Spanish Grand Prix.

The Laval, Que., native, who turned 27 on June 8, is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks.

"Yeah, that's what the surgeon here told me," Despatie's coach Arturo Miranda said Wednesday in an interview with CBC News. "Probably about two weeks he will be fine."

"The injury is about 10 centimetres — it is not a small thing," said Christiane Despatie, the diver's mother. "They took care of the cut; the cut was major."

"There was no bone injury, we think," she continued. "There was no commotion [concussion], we think. If he was able to text, then things were not so bad."

Despatie sustained the injury on an inward 3½ on the springboard — for him, a routine yet high-velocity, rotating flip he has attempted thousands of times.

Diving Canada chief technical officer Mitch Geller said Despatie lost his balance, failed to adjust and "grazed" his head on the edge of the board just above the hairline, but is not believed to have lost consciousness.

"If he did, it was very brief — under 10 seconds," Geller said. "There doesn't seem to be any concern of any lasting effects regarding a concussion right now."

However, Miranda cautioned: "We are proceeding like he has a minor one."

'Very bad timing'

Of concern is how Despatie's injury will jeopardize his preparation, if not his participation, in the London Olympics, which begin July 27. Men's springboard starts Aug. 6.

"It's a very bad timing," Christiane Despatie said. "Hopefully, we know all the team around him will do its best to have him ready for this event [Olympics].

"He's been injured for the last two Olympics. So for him, it's deja vu.

"But for him, it's pretty close to the Olympics … we're very hopeful for the things to come."

"We really wanted him to compete a couple of times before the Olympics," Geller noted. "It's just the cards that we're dealt.

"What we're going to try and do is make lemonade out of this lemon."

Despatie was scheduled to compete in the Spanish Grand Prix in Madrid followed by the Italian Grand Prix in Bolzano, Italy — the final two of six events comprising FINA's Grand Prix circuit — but plans to return home to Montreal in the next couple of days.

The two-time Olympic silver medallist will need to protect the wound from infection and, no doubt, adjust his training schedule ahead of the London Olympics.

He overcame back problems to qualify for his fourth Olympics in February.

"Certainly, the plan that we had in terms of his home stretch preparation for the Games themselves is no longer an option for us," Geller said. "We really have to assess how we revise the plan.

"He is a special athlete and he probably has the best chance of anybody in these kinds of circumstances of making sure he is ready to go."

Despatie, Canada's dominant diver for a generation, burst into the spotlight as a 13-year-old at the Commonwealth Games in 1998, when he captured gold in the 10-metre platform.

Since then, he has claimed Olympic silver at Athens in 2004 and at Beijing in 2008, world titles in each of diving's three individual disciplines — the first diver in history to do so — and no less than 46 national titles.

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