LONDON 2012: Gladding's courage gives her shot at Olympic dream
IT will be 18 months since the horrific head injury that could have ended Monique Gladding’s life when the Sheffield star steps up for her first dive at London 2012, but she never gave up on her Olympic dream.
QUALIFIED: Team GB's Monique Gladding will compete in the 10m platform event at the London 2012 Olympics (Getty Images)
The Durban-born 31-year-old cracked her head on the concrete platform and had to be pulled unconscious from the bottom pool at last year’s FINA Grand Prix in Russia, but said she always believed she could improve the British team.
Gladding, who will compete in the 10m springboard this summer, admits the last year-and-a-half have been a difficult journey.
While she was also the sub-plot in Tonia Couch's appeal against non-selection in the platform event, the Plymouth diver claiming, unsuccessfully, that her credentials were stronger than a diver who finished top Brit at the recent European Championships but behind her at the team trials in Sheffield.
“It's been a tough year since my head injury,” said Gladding.
“I was in such a strong place going into that competition in Russia and my confidence was at an all-time high so when it happened it really knocked me over and I suppose I always had hope and belief that I could still do it.
“With the team around me and the support structure I had, it was just about putting a plan and strategy in place to make it happen. I still had the desire to be here and I believed I could, and believed I had something to offer to Team GB.
“It was just about digging deep and finding that extra bit inside. There have been really difficult times, really dark times, but we really broke it down into small bite sizes, and every small step was a real personal accomplishment which made the whole journey easier.”
Gladding enjoyed success as a gymnast when she was a teenager, but had to retire from the sport through injury.
But since taking up diving she hasn’t looked back and stands on the brink of making her dreams a reality.
“I had to quit gymnastics when I was 17 because I had knee surgery, and I was told I wouldn't be able to carry on,” said Gladding.
“There was a real void left in my life at that stage.
“My mum asked why I didn't give diving a try because I might like that, and I tried it and fell in love with it straight away and the rest is history.
“This has been my dream for so long and I've been chasing it forever so that on its own is a massive thing, never mind where I've come from and the year I've had, it just an absolute delight.
“And to be in London on home ground, there are just so many things that make it a special occasion and I'm just honoured.”