07/25/2012 03:44 EDT | Updated 09/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Diver Despatie preparing for another Olympic challenge in London

MONTREAL - Alexandre Despatie has never been the type to shy way from challenges. And more often than not, he's overcome them.

But on the eve of his fourth Olympics, the veteran diver admits the London Games will be the biggest challenge of his career.

Despatie, 27, is coming off a tough year. He missed most of 2011 because of bursitis and tendinitis in his left knee.

And last month, he had a brush with disaster when he hit his head on the board while training in Spain.

The deep cut on the forehead as well as the concussion he suffered nearly derailed his latest Olympic dreams.

As a result, Despatie will have to surpass himself if he is to add to his Olympic medal total.

"I have a big challenge in front of me but I'm going to the Games to do better than ever," he told The Canadian Press. "And that's what the Olympics are all about — the desire to surpass oneself. I usually overcome challenges and that's what I'm going to do."

The three-time world champion and two-time Olympic medal-winner knows what he is talking about.

Four months before the Beijing Games in 2008, Despatie fractured his foot in an injury that prevented him from training in the run-up to the Olympics. Then, once in China, he suffered back pains that had him fearing the worst.

In the end, however, he still won silver in the three-metre dive.

"Mentally, it was super difficult," he said. "Healing physically isn't enough. You've got to get your confidence back. And my training before the Games wasn't necessarily going the way I wanted it to.

"Being injured is one thing, hurting is another. One often has to manage physical pain as an athlete. But when the head isn't there properly, it's difficult to turn the page and get back to positive thoughts."

Given the nature of his recent accident, Despatie may be affected psychologically. Even though he has no recollection of hitting the board, how will his subconscious react when it comes time to perform?

"If there's one thing that people will be able to say about me when I retire is that I won't have done things the easy way," Despatie said. "If it were easy, everyone would do it. I like being in this position where I have to work super hard to get where I want to go. I am very much at ease with that."

Despatie burst onto the international scene in 1998 when he won gold in the 10-metre event at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. He was only 13.

He didn't collect any medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but picked up silver four years later in Athens in the three-metre event.

As for London, he hopes his last Olympic appearance will result in the best possible performance, "given the circumstances."

"The key will be to enjoy myself, make the most of it and keep smiling. After all, I'm going to the Games to do what I love the most — dive."