Kiwi diver Elisabeth Cui (18) heralds a new era for the sport of diving in New Zealand, competing in the Women’s 3m Individual Springboard Diving at the Rio Olympic Games – the first Kiwi to do so in 24 years.
Taking the plunge into the sport of springboard diving almost a decade ago has paid off for Kiwi athlete Elizabeth (Lizzie) Cui.
Making her Olympic Games debut at Rio, Lizzie will also celebrate her 19th birthday at the Games during the diving preliminary round stage.
The five-time national champion and record holder began springboard diving at the age of eight and it has always been her dream to compete at the Olympic Games.
In heading to Rio, Lizzie signals a brilliant resurgence in the sport of diving for New Zealand, with the last Olympic representation in the sport 24 years ago in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Based in the United States at Louisiana State University, Cui staked her claim for a spot in the 2016 Olympic Team at the Rio World Cup and Olympic test event in February this year, finishing ahead of the current Commonwealth champion in her division at this event.
For the young Auckland diver, Olympic selection has been a goal from an early age having first taken up the sport when she was eight years old. Selection into the 2016 Olympic team has meant all of her hard work over the past 10 years is beginning to pay off.
“Knowing that all my bruises and scars both mentally and physically have brought me to the position I am in today makes everything so worth it,” she says.
“Since I was eight all I’ve known is diving. I eat, breathe, and live diving. Ten years of dedicating my life to this sport has never felt more satisfying.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it makes me so happy to know that my country is behind me and is supporting me 100 percent. I can’t wait to represent my country at the world’s most elite competition and make New Zealand proud.”
Olympic representation also means a huge amount to the national governing body of the sport, with Lizzie’s selection nod breaking a 24-year Olympic drought for the sport.
Not since Barcelona 1992, five years before Lizzie was born, has the New Zealand Olympic Committee selected a diver for the Olympic Games.
Diving New Zealand Board member and Rio 2016 Olympic diving judge Simon Latimer has been following Lizzie’s progress over the past few years and commended the young athlete on her selection.
“Lizzie is the first in a new generation of really talented young female divers coming through for New Zealand. We are fortunate that the sport is currently very well supported by a couple of strong international coaches.
“For someone at such a young age, we [Diving New Zealand] have been really impressed with Lizzie’s ability to step up in competition and back herself to perform when it counts,” says Simon.
“Given Lizzie has really only been competing at a senior level for the past 18 months, she has shown real professionalism, maturity and mental toughness. We look forward to supporting her all the way to Rio and are excited by what the future holds for her and our other talented crop of young divers.”
CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee Kereyn Smith believes the New Zealand Olympic team is looking stronger than ever.
“It is brilliant to have a young diver joining us in Rio and for Lizzie to be able to draw on her experience competing at the Olympic diving venue Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre earlier this year is a real asset.
“On behalf of the New Zealand Olympic Committee I would like to congratulate the New Zealand diving community and wish Lizzie all the very best as she continues to step up and prepares to take on the best divers in the world in Rio.”