When U.S. diver Laura Wilkinson (right) underwent surgery on her inflamed right wrist in January, it should have been a warning to other divers that the wounded tiger of the tower would be back with a vengeance. Sure enough, Wilkinson, 27, won her first world title on the 10-meter platform in Montreal last week, evoking memories of her gold medal performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she stunned favored Li Na and Sang Xue of China, despite having broken her right foot six months earlier.
Wilkinson returned to training only in May of this year, doing feet-first entries off the three-meter springboard. Even now she maintains the required two-second hold on her handstand dive by balancing herself primarily with her left hand.
She might have retired after the Athens Games, but a fifth-place finish there rekindled her competitive fire. "If I had won a medal last year, I might not have come back," she says. Leave it to Wilkinson to make the best of a bad situation.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (WILKINSON)