It’s instructive that a young lady who achieved 96.7 on her
ATAR result would readily admit that it was below her target, yet it’s equally
informative that she’s not disappointed by the outcome either.
18 year-old elite diver Nikita Hains is without doubt, a
highly ambitious realist. She sets lofty goals, but remains acutely aware of
what’s possible at a time, particularly whilst maintaining an active focus
across sport, study and lifestyle.
"My goal is medicine, so that’s slightly under but I knew
that going into year 12 that I couldn’t really reach the heights of medicine students
because I was only at school for about two thirds of the year,” she begins.
"I was quite happy with my ATAR result, so that’s gotten me
into Biomedical Science and I’ve just enrolled into Adelaide Uni,” Hains said.
The thought process behind this plan means she can now study
a degree that offers a bridging opportunity into medicine at one of the few Universities
in the country that presents such flexibility from an undergraduate science
course, all whilst continuing to sharpen her Olympic ambitions.
Ask yourself, how many teenagers do you know that could
simultaneously chase Olympic selection at the same time as planning a career in
Yet for Hains, this impending move to Adelaide will
fast-track both pursuits. It is therefore fitting, that she specialises in synchronisation.
You can call it fate, serendipity or even chance, but the fact
of the matter remains that this young talent is not so much in a rush, as she
is reaping the reward of strong forward planning.
Yet even she concedes the move to Adelaide has arrived
quicker than she’d anticipated.
"I knew it was on the cards (moving from Perth) as I’d
spoken with the national coaches and the CEO (of Diving Australia) about year
ago just to find out my options,” she said.
"But I never really thought I’d be moving so soon, I thought
it would be later this year but the opportunity arose at the end of last year to
move to Adelaide with a new national coach that they’ve got from America.”
Adding to the attraction of Adelaide was the fact that Hains
had previously spent time there when she was young, whilst knowing that her tertiary
pursuits could also begin immediately rather than a plan to defer for six
months if she’d remained in Perth longer.
"I thought this could be a really good opportunity for me to
go and start my Uni degree over there rather than postponing,” she said.
"I’ll be studying full time but probably only 75% which
still comes under fulltime but just dropping one unit so that I can focus a bit
more on diving.
And that focus is squarely on 2020.
"For me synchro would be my biggest target for Tokyo 2020,”
she said. "That was kind of why I wanted to move so soon, I’ve got 18 months
and I want to give it my best shot.”
The Adelaide aquatic facility caters for
platform synchronised diving and provides training tools and aides that Perth
could not. With Hains currently diving in tandem with Brisbane athlete Emily
Boyd, being closer together will also enable them to link up more regularly for
camps in either city as the crunch period draws nearer.
Yet set against all this excitement and opportunity is the
realisation that she is leaving home and the familiarity it breeds. She is
quick to point out, it wouldn’t have been possible without her home support.
Having started her athlete journey as a gymnast many years
before, Hains was first introduced to WAIS as a 10 year-old.
"WAIS has pretty much been a part of my life growing up and
it has played a massive role, from gymnastics to diving, I’ve had so many
support staff and I couldn’t have done it without WAIS.”
Naturally, her coach Matt Helm – who has overseen her final
junior years – is a name that instantly springs to mind.
"Matt has been very influential in the last few years as I’ve
grown into more of a senior athlete,” she said.
Similarly, Hains believes the coaches she worked with whilst
cutting her teeth as gymnast helped mould her, including a person who’s helped
her in two different pursuits through two different points in time, former gym
coach and now WAIS Performance Team Director, Jo Richards.
"When I look back on my gym career my coaches pretty much
shaped who I was and the athlete I am and I’m forever grateful.
"Jo Richards has been one of my mentors since I was about
six years old and she’s been there through everything and she’s always helped
me when I needed her and she’s given me guidance,” Hains said.
And in keeping with her dual focus on sport and study, Hains
was also full of praise for her psychologist Adrian Schonfeld who kept her
going on both fronts, when year 12 was at its most demanding.
"Adrian has been a huge help, especially over the last year.
He’s helped me through all of the challenges and seen me at the times when I’ve
been very stressed and he’s been really great.”
Despite the new horizons, Hains guaranteed Perth would never
stray too far from her thoughts, joking that the most important figure in her
life was already on the case.
"I will be back, mum’s already planned when I’ll come home,
so I’ll definitely be back,” she laughs.
Until then, there is no platform that diving can offer that’s
too high for Hains’ future goals.