GOLD COAST - Australian diver Taneka KOVCHENKO has retired from competition ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, team diving manager Michael HETHERINGTON confirmed on Tuesday (3 April) at the Optus Aquatic Centre.The 23-year-old has experienced headaches and neck pain since the end of last year, and recent scans confirmed her C1 and C2 vertebrae have compressed her spinal cord.
Her doctor and neurologist advised that should a dive go wrong, KOVCHENKO could potentially end up a ventilated quadriplegic, which has forced her immediate retirement from diving.
"I have had an amazing 14 years diving chasing my dream of representing Australia," said KOVCHENKO.
"I am grateful for every experience and opportunity I have been given. I am leaving the sport as an athlete proud of my accomplishments and with so many life skills."
Teju WILLIAMSON will replace KOVCHENKO and dive in the 10m individual event, with a decision to be made on whether she also pairs with KOVCHENKO's partner Melissa WU in the 10m synchronised platform.
"She (KOVCHENKO) has been amazing, she really has," HETHERINGTON said.
"Whether it has sunk in, I’m not fully sure as yet. She came and spoke to the team in camp and very emotionally broke the news to the team. But she also realizes there wasn't really a choice… it wasn't like she was just injured. Unfortunately the choice was made for her."
Team-mate WU said, "I'm going to miss you so much up on the platform... I'm so proud of you and everything you've achieved.
"This is only the beginning of what you will continue to achieve in life. Thanks for being such a great team-mate and for always inspiring me to get the best out of myself.
"You're one of the strongest people I know and I admire your courage and determination so much."