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Alexandre Despatie Injured: Veteran Canadian Diver's Accident Makes Olympic Hopes In Jeopardy

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ALEXANDRE DESPATIE INJURED DIVER
Bronze medalist Canada's Alexandre Despatie performs a dive during the final of the men's 3m springboard during the Diving World Cup event at the London 2012 Olympic Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park in London, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) | AP

Canadian diving star Alexandre Despatie is expected to compete at the Olympics in London despite a deep cut to his head from a diving accident.

The 27-year-old from Laval, Que., was training in Spain for this weekend's Grand Prix when he struck his head on the board full force Tuesday afternoon.

Despatie was performing an inward three-and-a-half at the time, during which his head spins back towards the board during rotation.

"It was a really out-of-the-ordinary, really freak accident in his case," Dive Canada chief technical officer Mitch Geller said Wednesday.

"It's a dive that's very stable, very consistent for him. We've never had any concern about his distance (from the board) on this dive."

The two-time Olympic silver medallist lost his balance upon takeoff and his head hit the end of the springboard, suffering a 10-centimetre cut just below the hairline.

If Despatie lost consciousness, Geller estimated it was for approximately 10 to 20 seconds. He was pulled from the water by lifeguards and his coach Arturo Miranda.

Geller told The Canadian Press in an interview Wednesday morning Despatie suffered a mild concussion, but then said later during a conference call with media "there doesn't seem to be any concern of any lasting effects regarding a concussion right now."

When contacted in Spain, Miranda said "we are proceeding like he has a minor one."

Because of the depth of the laceration, Despatie required surgery Wednesday morning to close the wound.

But he felt well enough to tweet "Thanks so much for the support everyone!! The surgery went well and I will give you guys an update soon!!"

The hashtag to the tweet was "olympicdreamstillalive."

"We think the chances are really remote that his Olympics is in jeopardy at all," Geller said. "It's going to affect his training and his preparation plan has to be revised."

Despatie was to spend Wednesday night in hospital for observation. It will be at least three weeks before he starts training again.

"Psychologically we never know how we will react, but knowing him, I'm sure he'll go back on the board and do his dive again," said former diver Sylvie Bernier, a gold medallist in 1984.

"If it was another athlete, I wouldn't be talking this way, but knowing Alex, I know that the only thing he has in mind right now is to be back on the board and focus on the Olympics."

Despatie will not compete at this weekend's Grand Prix in Spain, nor in next week's Grand Prix in Italy. The Olympic men's springboard competition starts Aug. 6 with the preliminary round.

Geller says there's training Despatie can do on land before he gets back in the water to prepare for London.

"We really wanted him to compete a couple of times before the Olympics," Geller said. "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 has experience managing injury during his Olympic preparation. He broke his foot in April of 2008, yet claimed a silver medal in springboard at the Beijing Olympics a few weeks later.

"He's faced adversity many times in the past and his response is truly something that really distinguishes him from the pack," Geller said. "When he's cornered, he comes out swinging."

Despatie earned silver in the same event in Athens in 2004, which was the first in diving for a Canadian man. Despatie also performed at the Sydney Games in 2000 when he was just 15.

Canada's goal at the 2012 Summer Games is to finish in the top 12 of the approximately 204 participating countries.

The diving team's objective is to produce at least two medals. Despatie's injury is another in a series of setbacks in Canada's preparation for London.

Eric Lamaze and the equestrian team lost Hickstead, who died during competition late last year. Lamaze won individual gold and team silver aboard the horse in Beijing.

Edmonton's Paula Findlay looked unbeatable in women's triathlon until a hip injury tripped her up last year. She doesn't expect to race before the Olympic Games.

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