She was the pint-sized teen prodigy who first dived into Australia’s hearts with a silver medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games at just 13 years of age.
Fifteen years on, Melissa Wu is still the queen of Australian diving as she prepares to compete at her fourth Olympics in Tokyo after growing up in the public eye.
Wu was a household name in sport by age 15 where she became the youngest Australian ever to win an Olympic medal in diving when she teamed up with Briony Cole to claim silver in the women’s 10m synchonised platform event at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
The Penrith-born Sydneysider says people react with shock when they hear she’s still diving at the top level at the age of 29.
Melissa Wu (pictured, left) has grown up and looks a world away from her young self, aged just 15 (right) at the Beijing Olympics in 2008
‘People are surprised when they find out how old I am, that I’m still going at this age. People still think of me as being a bit younger,’ Wu told news.com.au.
Wu is now an event more accomplished athlete compared to the one who stunned the world on the Olympic stage 13 years ago.
She just missed out on spot on the podium with a credible fifth in London in 2012 and a fourth-placed effort at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Wu also won gold at 2010 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, as well as more medals at world championships along the way.
But the hunger for that elusive Olympic gold medal remains as she prepares for the upcoming national titles to qualify for Tokyo.
Melissa Wu (pictured, left in 2008) was 15 when she became the youngest Australian ever to win an Olympic medal in diving with a silver with Briony Cole (right) in the women’s synchronised 10m Platform at the Olympics in Beijing
Diver Melissa Wu modelled the new Olympic uniformed designed by Speedo at a launch in Sydney last Thursday (pictured)
Wu relishes her role as a veteran of the Australian diving team having struggled with confidence and self-belief as a younger athlete.
She loves being part of a team and being able to mentor younger divers.
‘Obviously you’re a lot older, you’re a lot wiser, you’ve got a lot more experience, so just as a person things are really different and then going from one of the youngest to one of the oldest your role in the team changes,’ Wu said.
Despite of the swag of medals, Wu’s diving career hasn’t been all smooth sailing, plagued with injury and mental health struggles.
Wu also struggled with the highly competitive, cut-throat culture of Australian diving in the early stages of her career, where she was ‘pitted against’ fellow divers.
‘The environment and the team feeling has been a lot better now in recent years and I definitely feel like we’re definitely one team and a more supportive team,’ Wu said.
‘I really enjoyed the back half of these years in diving compared to the first half of that team environment and really feeling part of something.’
The diving prodigy (pictured in 2008 in Beijing) became a worldwide sensation when competing in the Olympic Games aged just 15
Wu also struggled after her older sister Kirsten took her own life in 2014 and took time away from the diving before returning to the sport to compete at her third Olympics in 2016.
‘I definitely have been thinking about her,’ Wu told the Sydney Morning Herald while competing at the Olympics in Rio.
‘It’s been really hard. I achieved something so big and to not be able to share it with someone you’re that close to … I know she’s always with me and I have her now in a way I didn’t have before. I get to share this in a different way with her.’
‘I appreciate these Olympics a lot more because I have been through a lot these last few years. To be able to overcome that and see what I am made of is a huge achievement. I’m finally proud of myself, it’s taken a while, but you take the good with the bad.’
Melissa Wu (far left) was just 13 when she dived into our hearts at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, going home with a silver medal
Wu discussed her career while modelling Australia’s new Olympic aquatic sports uniform range designed by Speedo at a launch last week.
‘Being here today and being in the kit in person makes Tokyo seem a lot more real, it’s so exciting,’ Wu told reporters on Thursday.
‘I love the colours and feel great in it.’
‘These Games will be different but we’ve all been training for this moment for years, and we’re so close now to the biggest sporting event in the world.’
Wu recently looked back on her career and opened up on her mental health struggles on Fox Sports program The Back Page.
‘From a young age, having that pressure in the program I grew up in, it was training in a squad that you wanted to be a team but at the same time pitted against the top athletes to stay in the squad and they were letting divers go frequently,’ she said.
‘I grew up with a lot of fear of not being able to maintain my place in the squad and growing up with athletes a lot older, I really struggled with that.’
‘It was a tough time. It took a few years to get out of it.’
Melissa Wu (pictured last week) is aiming to compete at her fourth Olympics, 13 years after she first competed at the Games as a 15-year-old