News in 5: Diver’s “heartbreaking” resignation before Games; Dreamworld inquest; A helpful shark.

Taneka Kovchenko. Image via Instagram

1. “I thought it was nothing.” Horror diagnosis forces athlete to make the heartbreaking decision to resign as Commonwealth Games begin.

South Australian diver Taneka Kovchenko has been forced to make a heartbreaking decision on the eve of the Commonwealth Games after a shocking diagnosis revealed a wrong dive could leave her paralysed.

The 23-year-old – who won gold in the synchronised platform event at the FINA Diving World Series on the Gold Coast last year – was a medal favourite going into the Games, which start today.

But now she’s been forced to retire, after scans show she has a congenital problem that causes hyperflexibility in the neck and vertebrae that compresses her spinal cord and brain.

WATCH: Kovchenko announces her resignation, from Nine News.

She’d been suffering headaches for sometime, her team manager Michael Hetherington told The Australian, and a neurologist told her just one wrong dive could render her a quadriplegic.

“It’s shocking news for Taneka. Her neurologist had no alternative but to advise her to retire from diving,” Hetherington, who is the Games team diving manager, said.

“Our hearts go out to her and her family who are so heavily involved in diving and on the eve of the Games — it is heartbreaking for Taneka and her family and our team.”

Advertisement

Kovchenko announced the news via Instagram, in an emotional post saying she first underwent the scans “thinking it was nothing”.

“This past week I’ve had to make one of the hardest decisions of my career. Yesterday, I announced I am having to retire from diving due to my safety,” she wrote, alongside a series of photographs showing her in action.

“Since the end of last year I have had chronic headaches and a lot of pain in my neck. We decided it was time to get it check out last month so I had a few scans done, not thinking much off it.”

After several scans, which showed Kovchenko’s c1 and c2 vertebrae were compressing her spinal cord and the bottom of her brain when flexed and extended, the 23-year-old said she was left with no option.

“The neurologist and doctors were very clear that if a dive was to go wrong that the result would be being a ventilated quadriplegic. This was a super scary moment,” she wrote.

“I thought of every scenario to try and continue diving till at least the end of this season, however the risks highly outweigh the options of continuing to dive and sadly I had to make the heartbreaking decision to stop diving.”

Kovchenko was set to appear alongside her diving partner and four-time Commonwealth Games representative, Melissa Wu.

The two were gold medal favourites for the 10m synchronised competition and Kovchenko’s replacement, Brisbane diver Teju Williamson, is desperately working to learn the combination before week two of the games.

Wu commented on her former teammate’s Instagram announcement, saying she’s going to miss Kovchenko “so much”, News Corp reports.

“I’m going to miss you so much up on the platform,” Wu said.

“It’s been an honour to not only compete with you as synchro partners but also to compete against you as competitors. I’m so proud of you and everything you’ve achieved. You’re one of the strongest people I know and I admire your courage and determination so much.”

Finally, Kovchenko shared her gratitude after a 14-year-long career and said she’s not done with the sport.

“I have had an amazing 14 years diving chasing my dream of representing Australia,” she wrote.

“I am grateful for every experience and opportunity I have been given. This may be the end of my diving career but I’m not going to be a stranger to the sport, I’m still in love with it.”

2. “She would have been a great grandmother.” Warning after woman dies with a 5cm hole in her stomach following gastric balloon surgery.

surgery
Image via Getty.

A morbidly obese NSW woman who underwent gastric balloon surgery would have been a doting grandmother had she survived the "surgical mishap", her son says.

Margaret "Margot" Pegum, 68, had the procedure done in April 2015 to help her lose weight but within three months she died of sepsis and multiple organ failure, her inquest heard.

Speaking outside Glebe Coroner's Court on Tuesday, James Pegum said his mother elected to have what she considered a less invasive operation so she'd live long enough to see her grandchildren grow up.

"Obviously that didn't happen," he told reporters, AAP reports.

Mr Pegum - who already has one child with his now pregnant wife - choked back tears when describing his mum as a wonderful and generous woman.

"She would have been a great grandmother," he said.

"It's been pretty harrowing for all of our family."

Counsel assisting, Jason Downing, said following the initial operation in April 2015, Ms Pegum, who had weighed about 109 kilograms, became frustrated that she still felt hungry.

The adjustable gastric balloon was further inflated in a second procedure on June 22 but Ms Pegum soon began vomiting and dry retching. She became so ill with abdominal cramps that her son took her back to hospital.

"I wish I'd done it earlier... you blame yourself," James Pegum said.

Ms Pegum underwent emergency removal surgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney where doctors discovered a five-centimetre hole in her stomach.

Her condition deteriorated and by July 5 she had gangrene in her colon and her bowel was beyond repair. She was placed in palliative care and died the next day.

Mr Pegum didn't seek to lay blame but wants his mother's memory honoured with strong recommendations that all weight loss surgery be supervised by a professional standards body.

"At the moment there is no one overseeing the activities of well-intentioned doctors and surgeons across Australia - they're not accountable to anybody," he said.

"If we can have her death not be in vain, and we can save other families, that'll make us sleep better at night."

3. An inquiry into the Dreamworld deaths will begin in June, with former CEO Deborah Thomas to be paid $3000 a day for her time.

dreamworld accident cause
The Dreamworld ride that claimed the lives of four adults. Source: ABC.

The long-awaited inquest into the deaths of four people killed in the Dreamworld ride disaster could start in June or July.

It will examine the circumstances around the October 2016 malfunction of the Thunder River Rapids ride that caused the deaths of Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi, and Cindy Low.

The Brisbane Coroners Court on heard on Tuesday the theme park visitors had boarded raft five on the ride, which had been designed for families with children and had been a key attraction at the park since December 1986.

Raft five's journey was without incident until it reached the end, where it was collected by a conveyor belt.

Fifteen seconds before, one of the two large pumps that kept the ride going failed and caused water levels to drop.

Raft five continued along the conveyor and collided with another raft before it was lifted and pulled vertically into the conveyor mechanism.

Ms Goodchild, Mr Dorsett, Mr Araghi and Ms Low were caught in the mechanism of the ride and were either trapped or thrown into the water.

"Each died almost instantly as a result of compressive and crushing injuries," counsel assisting the coroner Ken Fleming QC said.

Also aboard were Ms Goodchild's 12-year-old daughter Ebony and Ms Low's 10-year-old son, who survived.

Following the tragedy, police and safety specialists launched an investigation and are expected to give evidence when the coronial inquiry hearings begin.

According to Seven News former CEO of parent company Ardent Leisure, Deborah Thomas, who was paid out more than $730,000 when she stepped down following the incident, will receive $3,000-per-day for her work on the inquest.

She will not be paid to appear, just for her work. And a statement issued to Seven News said the sum will be on top of her termination benefit.

"Ms Thomas will be paid a consultancy fee of $3000 per day, for each day reasonably expanded in relation to the coronial inquest," the statement read.

On Tuesday, it was proposed the inquest be held in two parts.

The first, which could occur in June or July, will investigate the construction, maintenance, safety, history and modifications made to the ride. It will also examine the emergency services response and the training of Dreamworld staff.

The second part of the inquest will look at laws around theme park operations and whether changes need to be made and further safety measures introduced.

4. Fishermen managed to avoid breathalyzer when a great white shark chased away the police boat. "He wasn't keen on being breath tested."

The great white wasn't having a bar of it. Image via SA Police.
The great white wasn't having a bar of it. Image via SA Police.

Fisherman in South Australia have successfully warded off police with the help of a great white shark.

Melbourne man Mark Oaks was fishing with friends at Tapley Shoal on SA's Yorke Peninsula when a "4.5 metre - 5 metre long" great white shark began circling.

Speaking to ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast, Oaks said his friend swore and told him: "Look at the size of this thing that's come up behind us."

The shark was happily hanging about and "coming up against the motor" when a police patrol boat began approaching to breathalyse the pair.

"At the same time, the coppers were out there with their big patrol boat and they had another two guys on the inflatable," Oaks said, adding he warned the police officers to steer clear with the great white not going anywhere.

After waiting for around 10 to 15 minutes, the police nicknamed the shark "Noah" and gave up trying to breathalyse the fishermen.

Posting to Twitter, South Australian police said: "Noah wasn't keen on being breath-tested".

And Oaks and his friend avoided the breathalyser, also: "I don't think they were quite that game to come up close to us by that stage," Oaks said.

5. "I don't deny standing up for myself." Tziporah Malkah must face court on assault charges in May, otherwise she'll be arrested.

Tziporah Malkah
Tziporah Malkah. Image via social.

James Packer's former fiancee, model and reality television star Tziporah Malkah, will enter pleas on assault charges in May after failing to appear in court on Tuesday.

Malkah, formerly known as Kate Fischer, did not appear in Victor Harbor Magistrates Court, south of Adelaide, in relation to allegations she assaulted her then-partner during an incident in January.

A warrant was issued for her arrest, but it will not be activated unless she fails to attend court again in May.

A police prosecutor told magistrate David Whittle he had been in communication with Malkah's lawyer as recently as Tuesday morning, and the lawyer had explained she would not be represented in court.

Malkah, 44, who now lives in Sydney, was charged with biting ex-partner Guy Vasey, as well as assaulting three SA Police officers at the couple's Port Elliot home on Australia Day.

She also faces one count of disorderly behaviour and one count of resisting police.

Following a court appearance in February, she said she "chose to fight back" during the incident.

"What I can say is that I'm a woman who stands up for herself these days ... I've been bullied a lot, particularly in relationships," she told reporters.

"I don't deny fighting for myself, and I don't deny standing up for myself.

"If I was maybe six inches shorter and meek and crying and all the rest of it I think I would've been treated a little differently."

Malkah, who starred in the movie Sirens, was engaged to James Packer for two years until their separation in 1998.

She has since spent time in the United States and starred in the 2017 season of reality series I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Her bail was continued until her next appearance.

6. The controversial Australian cricket tour of South Africa has finally ended in chaotic collapse.

Tim Paine
Australian test captain, Tim Paine. Image via Getty.

The cause of Australia's embarrassment and disappointment in Johannesburg was not as serious as that in Cape Town, but a record 492-run defeat was nonetheless concerning for new captain Tim Paine.

Australia's controversy-plagued tour of South Africa ended on Tuesday with a chaotic collapse, when the hosts completed a historic 3-1 Test series win, AAP reports.

The tourists resumed at 3-88 on day five of the fourth Test, hoping to bat all day and salvage a draw after being set an insurmountable target of 612.

They capitulated in 81 minutes, and Australia were rolled for 119, suffering their second-heaviest defeat - in terms of runs - in Test history.

The meek surrender, which came after Paine fought incredibly hard on day three while batting with a broken thumb, capped one of Australia's most-incredible tours.

Regrettably for coach Darren Lehmann - who tearfully announced last week this would be his final match in charge - plus Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, it was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

The shamed trio are still coming to grips with the cheating scandal, while the entire touring party in South Africa remains disillusioned.

"I thought we were going to be a hell of a lot better than what we were. Obviously it had more of an effect on guys than we knew," Paine said.

"We're disappointed with the way we handled it.

"We had the chance to show some real fight and determination and, unfortunately, we weren't able to because I think, mentally, we weren't quite there.

"There is a fair bit of disappointment and borderline embarrassment in the dressing rooms.

"There is certainly some areas of concern."

Australia will be without their two best batsmen for a year - depending on the result of any potential hearings.

The absence of Smith and Warner was glaring at the Wanderers.

"We've lost two of the best players in the world. A lot of us have got to step up and take the slack," Paine said.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
FROM OUR NETWORK