YOU could compare it to never losing the knack of riding a bike, but the analogy hardly seems fair for an act so daring and precarious.
We’re at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Albert Park on a Friday afternoon to meet London-bound diving queen Loudy Wiggins (nee Tourky).
The venue reverberates to blaring music but is empty as Wiggins emerges from a side door on cue.
She’s five-foot nothing, polite and accommodating, especially given that this is an important lead-up session to her Olympic return.
Click on the image below for our gallery of Moonee Valley's Olympians.
We move into an interview room with views of the pool and tiers of springboards and platforms.
I gesture to the middle one, assuming it’s the 10-metre height Wiggins has twice dived to bronze from at the Olympics.
She’s quick to correct me, tilting her head upward to the highest and last of the platforms, then suggesting I take a look for myself.
‘‘I don’t think anyone doubts how high it is,’’ she explains, ‘‘but I don’t think they realise how hard the water is when you hit it.
‘‘We travel at 60 kilometres per hour and the water pretty much feels like concrete when you hit it.’’
Wiggins is back in the spotlight after itchy feet saw her leap out of retirement last year.
The Moonee Ponds resident shot to fame at the 2000 Sydney Games when winning bronze in the 10-metre synchronised platform with partner Rebecca Gilmore, the first diving medal Australia had won since 1924.
Four years later she backed it up in the individual event at the Athens Games, winning a second bronze.
In between there were back-to-back Commonwealth Games gold medals in 2002 in Manchester and 2006 in Melbourne.
Now she’s on the verge of her fourth tilt at Olympic glory after being named in Australia’s diving squad for London.
It’s a welcome twist no one, including Wiggins herself, saw coming.
In 2008 her bid to make the Beijing Games was cruelly cut short by a calf injury and she retired. Two years later came the birth of her daughter Layla, the joyous moment perhaps shutting the door even tighter on a comeback
Looking back, Wiggins says returning to the pool wasn’t even on her radar.
‘‘I had no intentions of ever returning,’’ she says bluntly.
Yet slowly but surely, the diving bug which bit her as a teenager resurfaced, in a somewhat unlikely manner. Curiosity led Wiggins to check out the competition while surfing the internet.
‘‘I started watching some diving at home and I thought I had it in me to give it another shot.
‘‘First I had to physically prepare my body to make sure that I was fit enough. I started off with three sessions a week, then four and five.’’
Those baby steps began with somersaults on dry land and fine-tuning her body.
When it came time to enter the pool Wiggins worked her way up the rungs of ladders, or platforms, so to speak.
‘‘The first time I went back up there I felt absolutely ridiculous,’’ she says of the 10-metre platform, ‘‘but it actually gets quite addictive.
‘‘[But] when you do something well, even though you’re scared, it feels euphoric. And it feels like you’re on top of the world and you can conquer anything.’’
When still contemplating a comeback Wiggins turned to her friend, Olympic freestyle skier Lydia Lassila, and fellow diver Chantelle Newbury. Both encouraged her to take the plunge.
Lassila in particular was adamant that if Wiggins had the fire in her belly then there was nothing more to be said.
‘‘She said, ‘If you’re thinking about it, you’ve got to do it’,’’ Wiggins recalls.
Others were not so kind. Wiggins conceded that many people thought she had passed her expiry date and would jeopardise her enviable diving record.
‘‘A lot of people said that I was putting my reputation on the line.
‘‘[But] I still had it in me and I just kept saying, if I can, why wouldn’t I?’’
From the moment she got back into the pool, Wiggins remembers instantly falling in love with the sport all over again.
Not once did she question whether she could compete at an international level.
It took her little more than four months to return to competitive diving and by last December she had triumphed at the nationals.
‘‘At that point I think everyone started to take me seriously,’’ she says with a touch of vindication.
The next step was competing at the Olympic trials in London in April.
Wiggins failed to earn a berth in the 10-metre individual event, but recovered to land a spot in the 10-metre synchronised platform.
Normally composed and unflappable, Wiggins admits to feeling a touch overwhelmed at making her fourth Olympics, a journey which began when she made her debut in the three-metre springboard as a 17-year-old at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
She counts the support of husband Simon, a former Carlton footballer, as immeasurable through the whole process.
‘‘Simon had to be 100 per cent supportive because he’s as much a result of me making this team as I am.
‘‘I was pretty emotional [when I made the team]. I have worked pretty hard for this, juggling motherhood, juggling the fact that I’m away from my husband and baby when I travel overseas. That’s the hardest part about it ... dragging my partner through hardship. It was kind of worthwhile.’’
The London Games preparation is chugging along nicely.
Wiggins trains five days a week, in the afternoons, combining her schedule with media commitments and being a mum.
Asked her feelings on heading to London as a 33-year-old veteran, she says age won’t be a barrier.
‘‘I’ve worked really hard to look the part at least,’’ she grins.
‘‘My synchro partner [Rachel Bugg] is nine years younger than me. But I don’t think she thinks about the age gap that much.
‘‘Now is the busiest time. Towards the Games it will just be a matter of maintaining fitness levels and making sure I don’t get injured.’’
Is the pressure mounting?
‘‘No. None. Not at all.
‘‘I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I could medal. My pressure comes from within.’’
Wiggins will stay in Melbourne to train before jetting off to London on July 21.
Diving starts on day three of the Games, which run from July 27 - August 12.
‘‘Anything can happen on the day,’’ she says in her happy-go-lucky manner.
‘‘The English crowd are always really supportive of Australians even though there’s a friendly rivalry. I think they cheer as loudly for us as they do for their home team.’’
The only downside is the inevitable mention of retirement and the closing of a glittering career.
‘‘I’m feeling good. I feel a bit sad because I think, OK in seven weeks this will all be over ... because I’m enjoying the journey so much. I’m enjoying the everyday training. the routine, the going home to my daughter. And I don’t really want to think now about anything after the Games. And I know that when the time comes I’ll have to.’’