After a long hiatus, Laura Wilkinson is hoping for a comeback. The Olympic diver is coming out of a 9-year retirement with her sights set on the Tokyo Olympics.
“Maybe it’s just the Olympian in me and I’ve done so many Olympics. I definitely want to be on that Olympic team. I’d love to stand on the podium," said Wilkinson. "For me, if you’re not going for the biggest goal, it’s just not worth it."
Wilkinson knows what it feels like being at the top. You may remember her name when the 43-year-old made history at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She became the first American woman since 1964 to win a gold medal in platform diving and she won while competing with three broken bones in her foot.
“It’s very encouraging to me to look back and say, okay if I did that through that issue anything is possible at this point," said Wilkinson.
The decorated athlete beat that obstacle then, but now she's faced some new bumps on the road to her current Olympic dream. The pandemic delayed the Olympics and in 2018, she underwent a complicated surgery.
“I had to have a two level surgical fusion in my neck so I took a year coming back from that. So it’s been a very up and down road and then I came back and then COVID hit so here we are trying to get back into it," said Wilkinson.
Through it all, she's managed to find some balance in all the uncertainty.
“I thought oh I’m gonna have this whole extra year, it’s gonna be amazing and I’ll be fully recovered and feel great but then we haven’t had access to training facilities like we used to. It's been an equally hard struggle, but at the same time, physically I do feel better, mentally I do feel better so I think it has been a gift," said Wilkinson.
Despite all those hurdles, Wilkinson says she is diving right in, focused on competing in Japan this summer.
“I love chasing after big hard things and sometimes you reach it and sometimes you don’t, but it’s worth the chase, because it makes you into this better person and better athlete," said Wilkinson.
The mother of four even got her kids into the mix when she was struck training at home during COVID lockdowns.
“They started becoming part of my workouts and doing everything with me and it was so much fun. Then they got to actually see what I did and see how much work goes into if you have this big goal, you have to put in the effort," said Wilkinson.
And she's hoping to inspire other moms out there.
“You don’t have to hang up your dreams or the big things you want to do. Bring your family along with you. They’re gonna learn so much by following you in that process," said the athlete.
Wilkinson was in South Florida this weekend competing at the Coral Springs Winter Invitational and is a strong contender to make the Olympic team. Next she is hoping to mount the 10 meter platform and the podium again to break Dara Torres' record as the oldest American to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
“I never thought as a 43-year-old mom of four that I would be diving platform again, but I just love it and it just fills me up inside," said Wilkinson. "To be able to do it again is kind of the reward in and of itself."