Griffith Sports College elite athlete and Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) student, Cassiel Rousseau, has made history as the first Australian to be awarded World Champion in diving at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Japan.
The golden-haired sunshine-state student won the gold medal for the Men’s 10-Metre Platform dive scoring 98.05 points for an expertly executed forward four-and-a-half somersault tuck.
In a show of underdog success, it was the only gold medal in the competition that didn’t go to the favourites, China.
“When you’re up against such tough competition, like the Chinese, you often get the support of other countries too,” Mr Rousseau said.
“So when I took that dive, it was really cool to have this huge support and cheering from the crowd.”
A successful stint in competitive gymnastics and acrobatics as a young teenager saw Mr Rousseau hungry for challenges elsewhere.
“My sister was trialling for diving, and mum dragged me out of bed at 4.30am because I’d stopped acro,” he said.
“I was kicking and screaming because of my fear of heights but I went along anyway and jumped off the one metre, then three metre springboards very naturally.
“The fear of heights didn’t really kick in until I stepped on the 10 metre.
“I don’t really feel the fear of heights when I’m up there anymore, I’ve done it so much now and I’m confident in my spinning ability, so it feels very natural.”
Despite only four years in the sport, Mr Rousseau has snared gold at previous competitions including the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Junior Nationals.
Alongside a busy training schedule and frequent competitions abroad, Mr Rousseau is a part-time Bachelor of Psychological Science Honours student at Griffith.
“It’s incredibly interesting, learning about the brain and connected behaviours,” he said.
“The importance of having career options outside of sports is a shared value amongst the elite athlete community.
“Unless you win say, multiple golds, and you’re a millionaire, you need to think about your career after sport.
“I’d definitely say go to uni if you feel like that’s something that you want to do.”
Mr Rousseau attributes the support from Griffith Sports College, including that from College Director Naomi McCarthy OAM, as well as his academic tutors, in helping him balance his sport and study load.
“I’ve been to a couple of different unis, and I felt barely supported with my sport,” he said.
“It was crazy to see just how much Naomi and Laura Adric [Griffith Sports College Manager] helped me with my studies alongside competing.
“You have to plan ahead even with competitions and let the people in your respective field know what’s happening, you just don’t know what you might qualify for.”
Naomi McCarthy said Mr Rousseau’s winning result is incredible at any time, but particularly in the lead up to the Olympics.
“I’m so pleased for him to have achieved this result and stamped his authority on the 10-metre event,” she said.
“I’ve worked closely with Cassiel and his coach in and around his training and study load so he can progress in his degree, both Cassiel and his coach really value that balance.”
Mr Rousseau’s proud father, Professor Mark Forwood, also occupies the campus as Foundation Chair of Anatomy at Griffith University.
Despite the world-class physios and sports science specialists Mr Rousseau has on hand, he still takes interest in his dad’s knowledge of physiology and injury.
“It’s cool to be able to pick Dad’s brain about injuries, what you should and shouldn’t do,” he said.
“Mum raised seven kids, she is very hard working, so I think I get that from her, and dad is very calm and very relaxed even in stressless situations.
“I feel I’ve inherited that part of his character, which has really helped me when I’m competing.”
Mr Rousseau has recently returned from the World Aquatics Diving World Cup Super Final in Berlin, continuing to add to his country-inspired collection of tattoos.
Together with fellow star diver and Griffith alumni Dominic Bedggood, the pair claimed a stellar silver in the Men’s 10-metre Synchronised event.