A family trip to Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre [MSAC] a couple of years ago turned into something much more for Jonah Mercieca.
The nine-year-old Keilor boy this month won three bronze medals for diving at the Australian Age Championships.
“I was really excited,” Mercieca said. “I did a really difficult jump off the five-metre platform and in the one-metre event I did a bad dive and didn’t think I would get a medal but dived well on my last dive to finish third.”
Representing Victoria was not even on the radar several years ago, in fact Mercieca had not even considered diving until that family trip to MSAC.
At the time, the Melbourne Elite Diving Academy was conducting a school holiday program in one of the pools. Mercieca’s father Eddie approached the group to find out more and Mercieca and his sister were given the opportunity to join the final two days of the program.
“He was like a fish to water,” Eddie said of Jonah. “He had been doing gymnastics … He’s always been energetic jumping off couches at home.
“My daughter said it wasn’t for her.”
Mercieca joined the academy soon afterwards and he hasn’t looked back.
Mercieca spent a couple of years learning the sport and increasing his training load.
In his first big competition, the Pullar Family Championships last October, he came home with three silver medals in the under-11 age group.
He followed up with another three silver medals – the under-11 three-metre, one-metre and platform events – at the state titles earlier this year.
His success meant Mercieca had qualified for the Australian Age Championships held in South Australia earlier this month.
Mercieca, the youngest of the Victorian squad at the national championships, said he didn’t know what to expect.
“I didn’t really think I had much of a chance,” he said. “The boys who beat me at the state titles were at the nationals. Those boys and last year’s national title winners were the ones to beat.”
Mercieca said the three-metre event was his favourite, as it allowed him enough time to do his dives.
Mercieca has now set himself some big goals.
He would love to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Olympic gold medal winner Matthew Mitcham.
But for now his next, his focus is on qualifying for the Victorian schools team later this year.
“Firstly I want to make the Victorian team,” he said. “I would love to go the Olympics.”