Diver Alexandre Despatie plays cards dealt to him to compete at London Olympics

Any gambler will tell you it's not always about the cards you are dealt but how you play them.

Diver Alexandre Despatie knew he'd been dealt a bad hand had when he smashed his head on a diving board just weeks before the London Olympic Games. The accident cost Despatie valuable training time, left him with a scar etched across his forehead, and tested his courage.

He could have folded. Cashed in his chips and walked away from the table. Instead, Despatie upped the ante and played on.

The 27-year-old from Laval, Que., will have his poker face back on Wednesday when he competes in the three-metre synchronized event with partner Reuben Ross. The three-metre individual preliminaries start Aug. 10.

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"I'm not dwelling on what happened to me," Despatie told Dave Stubbs of Postmedia. "Those are the cards I was dealt, or the cards that I dealt myself for these Games. I'm going to make the best of it with what I have and right now I'm feeling good, considering everything. I'm really, really happy to be here, very lucky to be here.

"I'm feeling good physically and mentally. I'm so focused on the moment just because it's the only way I'm going to get through these Games. I'm not thinking too far ahead. There are little challenges every day, but that's the way I like to work. I like to work and I like to be tested. I'm getting a little bit of that every day.''

The accident happened in June while Despatie was training for a competition in Madrid, Spain. The two-time Olympic silver medallist smacked his head on the board while attempting an inward 3 1/2 tuck on the springboard. The dive requires  a person to stand backwards at the end of the board, then spin forward with a high velocity.

Despatie needed surgery to repair a 10-centimetre cut and suffered what was called "a small concussion.''

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Things could have been much worse.

"If my head had been hit a centimetre lower, the concussion would have been more severe and I would be sitting at home right now,'' Despatie told the Toronto Sun. "I would not have been allowed to dive for at least 30 days.''

The three-time world champion missed two important meets in European and three critical weeks of practice. One of the tests came when Despatie returned to the pool and attempted the same dive again.

"I took a deep breath,'' he told the Toronto Star. "I was unusually nervous, scared. And I went."

Despatie has dealt with pain and injury in the past.

In April 2011 bursitis and tendinitis in his knee forced him off the board for nine months. In 1999, the year before his first Games in Sydney, he didn't dive for three months because of a bad back. A few months before the Beijing Games, Despatie fractured his right foot but recovered to climb on the podium.

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Despatie burst onto the international diving scene by winning the 10-metre gold as a 13-year-old at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. He has won silver medals at the 2008 and 2004 Olympic Games.

He expects London to be his final Olympics. It would be hard to bet against him winning another medal.

"To be here finally is reassuring,'' he said. "It's something I was dreaming of.

"I'm doing the best that I can with what I have, but it's going well."

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