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Mary Ellen recounts the challenges she faced in her bid to win a medal as a platform diver.

Diving is my passion, my life. I have been doing it since I was a kid, starting out with somersaults on the trampoline, and graduating to the springboard of our neighborhood pool. I was taught by my dad, who had been a diver at the University o Pennsylvania.

Later, I attended Pennsylvania State University, where I became a platform diver. A 10-meter platform is as high as a three-storey building. You hit the water like a bullet. My first time on the platform, it took me a half hour standing at he edge before I got up the nerve to dive. I have never looked back since.

After I graduated, I moved to Florida to train with legendary diving coach, Ron O'Brien. Coach O'Brien said I stood a chance of making the US Olympic team that would compete in the Barcelona summer games.

Training is grueling. The impact of hitting the water at high velocity again and again takes its toll on the body. But all the training was wroth it. When I was named to the US Olympic Diving team, I called back home immediately: "I made it, Dad !"

Though I had good news, Dad had bad. He was scheduled for open-heart surgery. My first impulse was to skip the Olympics so I could stay with him. Dad would not hear of it. "After all, Mare," he reassured me, "isn't this what I got you started on ? Remember ?"

Through all my years of competition, one image I kept close was that of my father bending me into the proper dive position on the springboard when I was little.

Now, hugging me goodbye before I left for Barcelona, my father said, "I'll be watching you on TV, Mare." Dad, who had taken all seven of us children to church every Sunday, kept a strong faith that would sustain him through whatever lay ahead. On the plane, I prayed and received the strong impression he would be all right.

Soon I was faced with another dilemma. The opening ceremonies were scheduled to take place between 8.00 pm and 1.00 am the night before my first event. I would get only a few hours' sleep if I marched with the other US Olympians. "We can always watch it on TV back at the Olympic village," Coach said.

I recalled Dad's words: "I'll be watching you on TV." I had got word he had come through his surgery nicely and was recovering well. It would make him very proud to see me with the other Americans. So I marched, the only platform diver at the ceremonies.

After the next day's competition, I was in second place. My coach said I was "a dark horse for a medal". the Russian and Chinese divers had been heavily favored. At 29, I had been written off by most people as too old to win. "Maybe you should march before all your events," Coach joked.

But my next-to-last dive was a disaster and plunged me into fifth place. I had one final shot at a medal. As I stood on the platform ready to take my last dive, I paused a bit longer than usual. The announcement came over the loudspeaker. "Mary Ellen Clark of the United States, doing a backward one-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists.

I stepped up to the edge of the platform and turned my back to the water. With a quick prayer and an incredible sense of lightness, I was airborne, arcing out over the pool, twisting and tumbling, the Barcelona skyline flashing by. A micro-instant later, I ripped into the water. I knew I had nailed the dive. When I shot back to the surface, Coach O'Brien was yelling, "Bronze, Mary Ellen, bronze !"

As I stood on the awards platform to accept my medal, I knew Dad was watching. This is for you, Dad, I thought. What an incredible feeling !

From paragraph 1-2 :
  1.

(a) Who had been Mary Ellen's first diving coach ?

(b) Mary Ellen loved platform diving and yet, she found it a frightening thing to do at first. Quote a phrase that expresses how frightening this experience was.

   

From paragraph 4-5 :

  2.

Why did Mary Ellen consider missing the Olympics ?

    From paragraph 8-9 :
  3.

(a) Mary Ellen was the only platform diver at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Give the main reason why the other platform divers had missed the ceremonies.

(b) Why did she finally decide to take part in the opening ceremonies ?

    From paragraph 10 :
  4.

Mary Ellen's coach said she was "a dark horse for a medal".

(a) Explain what this phrase means.

(b) State two reasons why he called her "a dark horse for a medal".

    From paragraph 11-13 :
  5.

Express in your own words how Mary Ellen had performed for her last two dives.

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Answers
 

1.

(a) Her father

(b) My first time on the platform, it took me a half hour standing at the edge before I got up the nerve to dive.

 

2.

Her father was going to have open-heart surgery.

 

3.

(a) The ceremonies were taking place between 8.00 pm and 1.00 am the night before their first event and taking part would mean they would not get enough rest before competing.

(b) Her father had said that he would be watching her on television and she wanted him to see her and fell proud of her.

 

4.

(a) It means she had not been expected to win a medal

(b) Firstly, the Russian and Chinese divers were heavily favored. Secondly, at 29 years of age, she was considered too old to win.

 

5.

Her next-to-last dive had been very bad whereas her last one had been very good.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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