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dAIS Athlete Stories

dAIS is the most comprehensive system of direct financial support of Australia’s current world class athletes and future stars. dAIS supersedes the previous financial support scheme and features an increased investment, greater support to Australia’s best performed athletes and the introduction of support for emerging athletes. Read more about how dAIS support is helping some of Australia’s most promising athletes to become champions.

Domonic Bedggood

Meteoric rise

After scoring an unexpected diving gold in Glasgow, up-and-comer Domonic Bedggood is making the sport look a synch. But is it?

Domonic Bedggood is clearly a man of understatement.

In July the Gold Coast native won gold in the synchronised 10-metre platform event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It was a rousing performance — one that saw partner Matthew Mitcham break his streak of six silver medals — and came only three years into Bedggood’s diving career.

It’s been a meteoric rise, one for which a bit of grandstanding could be expected. But the 20-year-old seems to be taking it all in his stride.

‘I’m doing pretty good,’ he says quietly, without a hint of irony.

Bedggood began his sporting career as a gymnast. For 10 years he trained across the road from Brisbane’s Sleeman Centre — the home of Australia’s top divers — and it was only after breaking his back in a high bar routine gone wrong that he made the switch.

But despite this new world, and a seemingly laid-back demeanour, Bedggood insists his goals never shifted.

‘I’ve been doing sport at an elite level since I was about nine. And my ambition was always to go to the Olympics and win a medal. That’s still the goal — it’s just a different set of circumstances.’

Bedggood admits that to win a medal in Rio in 2016 he will need support from many corners. After receiving an athlete grant from the AIS last financial year, he’s pleased to hear the funding pool has been boosted by $1.6 million under the revamped dAIS scheme.

‘To be able to compete at the highest level can be really hard unless you have support,’ he says.

‘[AIS funding] definitely made a big difference. It took away a lot of the worries and stresses. I’m from the Gold Coast so travelling back and forth can really add up.

‘It’s also good to be able to support myself and not have to rely on my parents as much. Now that I’m an adult, I want to pay my own way through life.’

After his success in Glasgow, Bedggood is considering deferring study plans so he can concentrate on preparing for Rio. Depending on whether he achieves all of his career goals — which includes winning some silverware at the world championships — Bedggood would like to call it a day in front of a home crowd at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

‘It’d be great to bow out in front of my family and friends. But there’s a lot to do before then. It won’t be easy — though I guess if it was easy everyone would be doing it.’

Shelley Watts

Daily grind

Australia’s new boxing star, Shelley Watts, loves a challenge — and with additional funding she now has Rio firmly in her sights.

For Australia’s newest boxing star, Shelley Watts, the list of traits needed to be an elite athlete — such as determination, focus and resilience — has a striking omission.

‘Stingy,’ says the 27-year-old with a laugh.

Watts would know. During the past nine months she has been living off her savings as she focused on qualifying, and then competing, at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July.
‘I don’t think a lot of people realise that I have put my whole life on hold,’ says Watts, who hails from the small town of Laurieton on the NSW mid-north coast.

‘I haven’t been able to work since January. So I’ve had to be very careful with money or rely on the people around me. My local community has been great; they held a fundraising drive to help me with the additional expenses I had before Glasgow.’

But after scoring a gold medal at the Games in the women’s 60-kilogram division, the daily grind should become a bit easier for Watts. With the AIS announcing its revamped athlete funding scheme, dAIS — along with a $1.6 million yearly increase — emerging athletes such as Watts will receive support for the first time.

‘It means a lot to me,’ says Watts of the dAIS scheme. ‘Being on the government’s radar as someone who is an emerging talent will help me to continue with my training. I want to be able to go toe to toe with the elite girls overseas, who get paid to do what we do.’

Watts is only two units shy of completing her law degree, but says her focus for the next two years will be on qualifying for Rio 2016 — a process that will be almost as tough as winning an Olympic medal.

‘I’m going to be pushing towards Rio. To qualify, I’ll need a top-four ranking at the world championships or to be in the top-two in the Asian region. It’ll be a challenge, but I like challenges.

‘The more international experience and exposure I get the more confident I’ll become.’

Watts says that while it’s tough at this stage to look beyond Rio, she would like to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, ‘provided my body is willing to hold up’. 
But what of the prospect of four more years of sacrifice?

‘As much as it’s hard, when you get to put on the green and gold and represent your country, it makes it all worthwhile.

‘I definitely wouldn’t change anything.’

Brittany Broben

Standing tall

Australia’s Olympic silver medallist Brittany Broben admits life as an elite athlete ain’t all it’s cracked up to be — but that won’t stop a gold medal assault in Rio.

The Commonwealth Games have not been a happy hunting ground for Australia’s diving sensation Brittany Broben.

Not that she’s had a chance to display her world-beating talent, mind you.

After stunning the field as a 13-year-old by claiming two gold medals at the Australian Open Championships, Broben missed qualification for Delhi in 2010. This year, with Glasgow tantalisingly close, she was forced to have surgery for a chronic shoulder problem.

But after a series of near-misses, she’s determined to be at her home Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 — and hopefully sporting an Olympic gold medal to go with her silver from London.

‘It’d be amazing to dive in front of my home crowd — it’ll be 20 minutes from my house!’ says the now 18-year-old, who competes in the 10-metre platform event. ‘But Rio is the goal for now. I’m completely focused on that.’

Broben is one of Australia’s brightest medal hopes for 2016 — though she admits her status does not make her immune to the struggles that are part and parcel of elite sport.

It’s not, according to Broben, all glittering medals and exotic locations.

‘It’s very difficult,’ she says of life as an elite athlete. ‘I’ve done it for a long time now but I don’t think it gets any easier. You miss out on a lot.

‘It can also be really tough to find work, as our training schedule isn’t the most flexible. Not many employers are willing to work around it.’

To date, Broben has received athlete funding from the AIS, which has helped with ‘a lot of little expenses that can really add up’. This includes travelling several times a week between her home in Mermaid Beach to Brisbane for training.

Broben is also full of praise for the AIS’ revamped dAIS funding scheme, which this financial year will see more money go to more athletes — from those who perform well on the world stage to emerging stars.

‘It is fantastic,’ she says. ‘I know that in our sport, athletes really struggle to make any money. So the extra support is really appreciated.’

One thing is for sure: the funding will certainly mean Broben can turn her full attention to succeeding in what she says can be ‘a scary and dangerous sport’ — and one that demands perfection. 

‘That said, I think you need fear. It’s what makes you a good diver; that fear at the back of your mind, to want to do everything right.’ 

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