ROME - It's little wonder that Italian diver Tania Cagnotto feels deep down that she'll win an Olympic medal.
And it's not merely because her father Giorgio won four Olympic medals in diving, or that her mother, Carmen Casteiner, also dived for the Italian national team.
Cagnotto left empty handed from her first three Olympics, but she has won five world championship medals and will enter the London Games as a contender in both 3-meter synchro and 3-meter individual.
"An Olympic medal has been in my heart for years," Cagnotto said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "I've won everything else, and an Olympic medal would be the cherry on the cake after a long career. I'm just happy I still have the chance at my fourth Olympics."
While still only 27, Cagnotto has been on Italy's Olympic squads for more than a decade.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, the 15-year-old Cagnotto was the youngest member of Italy's team — in any sport.
"I was just a kid without any pressure at all and I just really enjoyed it," Cagnotto said. "Athens (2004) was my least favourite in terms of organization. Beijing was very special because diving is the national sport there."
Cagnotto was born and raised in the northern city of Bolzano, where she has trained with her father throughout her career.
She now also trains two to three times per week with synchro partner Francesca Dallape, who lives in Trento, a short drive south on the A22 highway. They alternate between pool training in Bolzano and dry-land workouts in Trento.
Having begun competing together after the 2008 Beijing Games, the pair have thus far won three golds at European Championships and a silver at the 2009 worlds in Rome.
"(Tania) is a great role model," Dallape said. "Sometimes she doesn't look like she's on in training but then she becomes a phenomenon when it counts."
Synchro could be Cagnotto's best chance at that elusive Olympic medal, since the favoured Chinese can only claim one medal.
"The Chinese can't be matched. We're aiming for silver or bronze," Cagnotto said, adding that the Canadians, Americans and Ukrainians are their top challengers.
At the London test event earlier this year, China won, followed by Canada and Italy.
In the individual event, Wu Minxia and He Zi are expected to finish 1-2, while Cagnotto should battle with Jennifer Abel of Canada and Sharleen Stratton of Australia for bronze.
"It's 90 per cent that the Chinese can't be beat, but you never know," Cagnotto said. "I just need to focus on my own dives and not worry about what anyone else does."
At the Beijing Games, Cagnotto made some mistakes on her opening dives but then scored the only perfect "10" of the event with a 2 1/2 reverse for her final effort. She finished fifth.
"That was very special, coming in front of the Chinese fans, who are so knowledgeable about diving," Cagnotto said. "I hope it happens again in London."
In March of last year, Cagnotto was involved in an accident on her scooter while driving to training and had to have surgery on her left hand. She rushed back to compete at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai a few months later wearing a brace and took a bronze in 1-meter springboard, a non-Olympic event.
Before each dive, Cagnotto covers her head with a towel before climbing up to the springboard.
"That's when I visualize the dive," she said. "It's my last chance to isolate myself and really focus on what I want to do."
It's anyone's guess what language Cagnotto is thinking in. Coming from a German-speaking area of Italy, German is her first language, but she often thinks in Italian. She also speaks English — having studied and trained for a year in Houston, Texas — and she can understand Spanish.
While she may compete in some other events after the London Games, Cagnotto has decided this will be her last Olympics.
"I want to finish on top," she said. "But even if it doesn't go as planned, I'll at least be able to say I gave it my all."