Olympic gold medal diver Chris Mears says an injury that almost killed him turned his life around and made him the champion he is.
Mears ruptured his spleen in an accident in Australia in 2009 when he was just 16. At that time he admits that he was a failure at school and going nowhere.
Doctors had to operate to remove his spleen and gave him only a five per cent chance of survival but Mears pulled through and began to reassess his life and start to put some effort into the things he was good at.
And just eight years after coming close to death, he won gold in the synchronised 3m springboard event with Jack Laugher at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“I had a mid-life crisis when I was 16,” he recalls in an exclusive video for FUEL.
“I realised that I was being an idiot at school and I had to do something about it and work hard. I would not be in the same position that I am now if it hadn’t happened to me, so it’s a blessing really. It only was positive.”
While his family suffered, Mears sees only the good side.
“My parents won’t say the same, because I was out of it but they were the ones having to experience it.
“So it was difficult for them, I know it was, but for me it was just like a bit of a slap on the head. More of a really hard hit on the head that kick-started me into gear to think: ‘All right. Why do I do half the things I do? Why am I trying to be cool at school rather than work hard?’
“Unfortunately it was two months before my GCSEs and I pretty much failed them all, but it made me realise that this diving thing is the only thing I have. Maybe I should really work at it. It might go well, it might not, but we’ll see.
“And it paid off totally. I can’t say what I’d be like now without it.”
Part of the change came because he had to alter his whole lifestyle.
“Going through the illness that I went through made me more susceptible to viruses etc, so it was pretty much at that moment when I was 16 that I did have to make some change in my diet.
“It was less about the actual food, but more about timing. If I would train really hard and then not eat for an hour and a half, that’s really bad for you because you’re not replenishing your body, which means that then in that hour and a half you’re really susceptible to viruses.
“But I did start to eat better from that period because I had to. I couldn’t neglect my body. I had to move forward with everything.
“Everything in my life had to step forward. I had to make sure that I was doing my body right.”