SPORTS clubs the world over host come-and-
try days, hoping to attract a few more participants.
Most clubs get a few new participants and maybe one or two long-term members but after injury forced Lilydale resident Jaele Patrick to leave gymnastics as a 15-year-old, a friend's
invitation to come and try diving led her on an adventure through elite level competition, four years of US college education at Texas A&M University and, as of last week, to the London Olympics.
"It was basically 'bring along a friend day'," she said. "My friend took me along and as soon as I took my first dive I fell in love instantly."
The 24-year-old will make her Olympic debut in the women's three-metre springboard and look to add to her glittering diving achievements, which included an NCAA (US college) national championship in the three-metre springboard earlier this year.
Patrick said she was excited to be in the Games but was never certain she had made the team until she saw the official paperwork. "With all the steps you go through, to see the official email was very overwhelming," she said.
Patrick said all she wanted to achieve in London was a personal best.
After that she would take any other achievement as a bonus. "I'm aiming to do a PB. I can really just control myself, I can't control what anyone else does.
"We [athletes] all go over to win medals, but you can't control what other athletes are doing; everything outside of a PB is very subjective. You rest on the opinion of others."
Patrick completed 10 years of gymnastics before beginning diving, so she has long lived, athletically, on the judgments of others.
"It's a bit daunting, standing on the board with the judges judging you but I knew what to expect," she said.
Despite falling in love with diving, Patrick said it took years of training for her to develop the confidence and awareness needed for elite competition.
"I had never had any thoughts about diving. I was used to landing on my feet, not landing on my head.
"It was all trial and error; I spent a lot of time changing my aerial awareness and learning where my head was during the dives."
Just five years after starting the sport, Patrick was offered her scholarship to Texas A&M.
She said the move to the US had not only helped her diving but helped her improve as a person.
After pausing her studies in the lead-up to the Olympics, Patrick is just a semester away from finishing her degree majoring in business and minoring in sports management.
"Texas has taught me a lot in terms of personally making me so much more independent and self-reliant.
"I've learned to adapt to different surroundings and we compete every two weeks, whereas in Australia I would only compete four times a year.
"So it was a massive thing to help me with more experience while also helping me look at different goals, including those after my diving career."
Patrick's Lilydale-based mother, father, brother and cousin all plan to travel to London to cheer her on.
Patrick said she wanted to take in every moment. "I basically want to embrace every part of it and breathe in every moment," she said.
Patrick is coached by Jay Lerew and Gannets Diving Club coach Matthew Adamson.