Amazing comeback by diver who was on death's door in Sydney

3 years ago, 24 June 2011 (AEST)

He looks set to compete for Team Great Britain at next year’s London Olympics but 18-year-old diver Chris Mears has Aussie blood running through his veins after he almost died as a result of a training mishap in Sydney two years ago.

Mears was on death’s door after collapsing during the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) in Sydney and struggled to stay alive for over a month in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Mears was just 16 when he hurt himself in a dive at the Aquatic Centre at Sydney Olympic Park. He collapsed at breakfast the following morning and was rushed to hospital by ambulance.

Doctors at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital were unaware of the diving mishap and thought he was suffering from meningitis.

His condition deteriorated caused by internal bleeding and the head of the British Olympic Association (BOA) Lord Colin Moynihan maintained a bedside vigil and flew his parents to Sydney immediately.

Mears remained in a critical condition and surgeons removed his spleen which they believed ruptured in the dive that went wrong. Doctors said it was touch and go on his survival from the operation but he pulled through.

He remained in intensive care and was eventually discharged from hospital on 24 January 2009.

Two days later Mears suffered a relapse and was rushed back to hospital suffering from seizures. He was finally discharged on 4 February 2009 to recover with his family in Sydney. The Mears family was given clearance from the doctors to return home to England on 17 February 2009.

 At the time of Mears’ accident, Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham and other Australian divers were regular visitors to the hospital.

Two years later Mears is not only back on the diving board but he has qualified for the World Championships in Shanghai in July. If he performs well he is certain to qualify for Team GB at the London Games.

His parents Katy and Paul have contacted Diving Australia to invite a couple of Australian families to stay with them during the London Games.

“We were both overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity offered to us (during their son’s illness) by the Australian diving community and we’d like to offer something back as the Games come to London,” they wrote.

Kim White the High Performance Manager of British Diving is amazed by the progress Mears’ has made.

“What an amazing comeback” he said. “Young Chris is one of our best springboard divers at the tender age of 18 and has been selected for the world championships in China. The world can be a great place sometimes.”

Paul and Katy Mears also wrote to thank to the President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) John Coates to thank the staff at the AOC for their efforts.

“The support and generosity we have received from all quarters in Australia has been both astounding and humbling, we will all be eternally grateful.”

“Whilst Chris was in Hospital Matt Mitcham kindly visited and brought messages of support as well as precious Gold from Beijing. It lifted Chris spirits immeasurably simply to meet the Olympic champion of the sport that he is so passionate about.”

“We have so much to thank you and your country for, the expertise and dedication of so many Australians has quite simply given us our son back. So, when he's diving for Team GB in London and perhaps replicating Matt's pinnacle of sporting achievement you can look on Chris in the knowledge that he really does have Aussie blood in him”!

Mike Tancred