Commonwealth champion diver Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix: Twisties, turns and how I got over my mental block

Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix on her way to Commonwealth 10m platform gold (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty)

Last year was an incredible one for me. At the age of 17 I became junior world champion, won two senior European titles and two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and nine major senior medals in all.

However, there is a story behind the story and before I go on to give my thoughts about the 2024 Olympics, I need to share what the build-up to such a successful year looked like for me.

I struggled a lot after the Tokyo Games physically and mentally. I felt really defeated even though I had fulfilled my dream, going to an Olympics as a 16-year-old.

Something inside was not right. Up until a year ago, I was in a rut, crying in every training session. I couldn’t do simple things and it was a very difficult time. I had something the gymnast Simone Biles refers to as the ‘twisties’. In golf, they call it the ‘yips’. In other words, a mental block.

I must admit, quitting did go through my mind. However, I knew what I had to do, actually, was change my approach 
to training.

I was very serious about stopping competing. What got me through that time was my love for the sport. I wanted to see if I could mend my relationship with it.

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For four months, I was on and off but after a while I started to get better. My attitude changed completely and I found I was becoming so focused in training.

This sport is just unique and now the 10metre diving board is my happy place again – where I feel most at peace. I’m not 100 per cent yet but no one’s perfect. I try to better myself and keep negative thoughts away.

As we enter the new year I am straight back into training as well as preparing for my A-level mock exams after that.

Andrea celebrates after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in August (Picture: Dave Hunt/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

And she gets emotional as she receives her medal on the podium (Picture: Angelo Carconi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

I go to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and then straight to training from there. There is quite a lot of travel involved but I have a routine and actually find it quite easy. But there are no easy days.

This is why I like diving – no session is boring and I find it so much fun. My coach Alex Rochas has inspired me not to rely on talent alone. If I ever feel overwhelmed at anything, he is always there for me to talk to and calms me down.

I don’t like to feel I’m disappointing people if I can’t do something but I’m human and I can’t do everything at once. I feel I’m a confident speaker – maybe seeing my dad Fred, from the Channel 4 show First Dates, appearing on TV and having media attention while I’ve been growing up has helped with that.

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I know he was a nervous talker before going on television. But I have always been talkative. In fact I never shut up!

I have not had a lot of time to fully take in what a year 2022 was but I know I felt so content, blessed and thankful after winning the two European Championships gold medals in Rome.

It made my struggles leading up to that worth it. Eight months of progress and working on myself paid off. I know now nothing can stop me. No mental block, no stress, no pressure.

Fred Sirieix celebrates Andrea’s success last summer (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA)

I think about the Olympics but more about next season currently. I work hard every day to ensure my chances of succeeding this year and next are as high as possible.

I can’t allow myself to jump to the future and fixate on Paris when I still have to qualify and compete in the 2023 and 2024 seasons first.

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Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix writes for Metro ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics. @andreassirieix04

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