NEWS
02/19/2012 01:02 EST | Updated 04/20/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada's Despatie desperate to qualify for London Olympics diving

Having to qualify for the Olympics only five months before the big show is an unfamiliar predicament for veteran diver Alexandre Despatie.

Only one month since returning from a knee injury, Despatie has one last chance to earn a spot at the 2012 Games at the FINA Diving World Cup this week. It will be held in the same Aquatic Centre pool in London where the Olympics will be staged in July.

"This is a new situation for me," the Laval, Que., diver said Sunday on a conference call. "It's entered my mind that this is the last opportunity, but to think about the pressure would be completely wrong.

"I know what I have to do."

By this time in a usual four-year Olympic cycle, the multiple world champion would have had an Olympic ticket booked well in advance.

But a knee injury caused him to miss a shot at an early qualification at last year's world championships in Shanghai.

He's rusty, but on talent alone still should be able to finish in the top 18 in the three-meter springboard event, which would secure an Olympic entry.

He and partner Rueben Ross of Regina will be in action Monday as they try to qualify in the three-metre synchronized diving event by placing in the top seven. Preliminaries for the three-meter individual event is Tuesday and a semfinal berth means a spot at the Games.

In diving, athletes secure places for their country in each event. Which divers will actually compete in London will be decided later at national trials, although barring injuries, the same group will likely be diving at the Olympics.

So far, Canada has clinched berths in all women's individual events and the men's 10-metre platform.

Despatie returned to competition last week at a meet in Rostock, Germany, competing in synchro with Ross.

"I lost a year of competition and I was out of water completely for nine months," Despatie said. "I had to relearn the movements. I had to start from scratch, doing dives for five-year-olds.

"I've trained at 100 per cent for only one month, which is not ideal, but those are the cards I've been dealt. I feel good about the meet. The objective is top 18."

Despatie, who tweeted a picture of the team in the upper level of a London double decker bus this week, hopes to go to a fourth Olympics Games and get another shot at the gold that has eluded him thus far. The 26-year-old won silver on the springboard at the 2004 and 2008 Games after finishing fourth off the platform at the 2000 Olympics.

Ross placed third in Germany and looks good to secure a spot, while Eric Sehn of Edmonton will be looking to get Canada's second birth off the platform.

However, the team's chief technical officer Mitch Geller called Canada's chances of qualifying a men's 10-meter synchro spot a "long shot."

While there are nerves among the men, the women are taking a more relaxed approach.

"We're qualified our spots so this will be more like a normal competition," said Emelie Heymans of St. Lambert, Que. ''We'll just try to do the best we can.

"It will be great to dive at the Olympic pool and see what the ambience is like. It will be exactly like at the Olympics."

The indoor pool has seating capacity for 17,500. It will be limited to 3,000 seats for the World Cup meet, but is expected to sell out.