Overcoming injury, elite diver Liam Stone has found a new perspective on diving with his sights set on selection to the New Zealand team for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Stone burst onto the international scene in Glasgow as a fresh faced 17-year-old, becoming New Zealand’s first male diver to compete at a Commonwealth Games in 16 years, before going on to compete at the Gold Coast Games in 2018.

But injury forced a rethink.

The 25-year-old thought his diving career may have been over after breaking his foot in 2020, only to then injure his back on his return to the sport. After considering surgery, Stone only hoped to get back to living daily life pain free. The difficult decision was made to avoid surgery, and stage an unprecedented come-back.  One that’s been tough, but worth it.

“It’s been tough, but as I come out of it, I see it as a little bit of a blessing because as I come back to the sport now and build to my third games, I have such a deeper appreciation for it, and have found my true love for the sport again,” he says.

Injury hasn’t been the only adversity he has faced, missing out on the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016 sent Stone into a downward spiral, ultimately affecting his confidence and mental health.

“After missing out on the Rio Games, that really affected me. I was so set on making those Olympics, that I kind of went into a depression, had fatigue problems, and got quite burnt out.”

Stone sees these setbacks as a learning opportunity, providing him with a new perspective on sport – to enjoy the process of training and live in the moment, removing the expectation of chasing results.

“In the past I have been very future focused and obsessed with achieving certain goals and not enjoying the process so much. As I come back to the sport now, I’m learning now that it’s about loving this moment, the training, every day, and the results will come,” he says.

“I began to fall in love with the process again, and recognise that I wasn’t in a great space, and that’s okay, the only way to get out of that place is to recognize you are in it and begin to be okay with it.”

"As I have come back, I’m just learning to love diving again, I feel like a little kid, just doing diving because I love it."

Injury challenges forced Stone to look at life away from the pool, where he now works at Barfoot & Thompson as an Associate Salesperson. Balancing both work and training commitments has provided him the opportunity to develop his career away from diving, and Stone wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I really enjoy it as it’s quite self-driven like sport, so I feel like I am drawing similarities from my training every day to working every day,” Stone says.

Stone is looking to be selected in the New Zealand team for Birmingham coming off the back of a 6th placing in the Men’s synchronised diving final, and 7th placing in the 1 metre final at 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

“I’m very proud to be a kiwi, sport in New Zealand is very valued and when you watch the Commonwealth Games you can see the spirit and proudness that everyone carries wearing the fern, and it’s no different for me when I wear the fern, I’m so proud to represent our country and put us on the map”.

“Being in that position where I thought I might not be able to dive again just means now I have such an appreciation for being able to do it.”