Straws, TikTok and diving: Fricker's on a bigger mission than Olympic gold

Australian diver Sam Fricker will compete in the 10m platform at the Tokyo Olympic Games Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

"I run a straw company, bio-degradable wheat straws. So that's a bit random."

Diver Sam Fricker flashes a smile. He's used to facing a blank stare as one does the quick mathematics.

Aged 19, Fricker has been on a mission to help better the environment by selling straws made from wheat stems for two years and counting.

All the while chasing an Olympic Games debut and creating content for almost a million TikTok fans.

"I'm focusing on diving, TikTok and the business," Fricker told ESPN.

"I started [the straw company] in Year 11, with TikTok I try to spread the word about how good they are for the environment.

"Paper straws fall apart and plastic is being banned soon, but this uses the stalk of the actual wheat stem. It gets rid of the grain, so they're gluten free.

"That's purified with water, and you have a bio-degradable wheat straw. I'm currently rebranding to Sam's Straws to keep it simple. I might try and get a big chain."

Co-founding an enviro-business at just 17 is no small feat. And neither is reaching a casual 10 million views on three TikTok videos, two of which were of his diving.

Besides leveraging Sam's Straws on social media, his content is a mix between diving videos and of course, memes.

With almost a million followers and 33.4 million likes, Fricker's bio of 'more than just a dream' perfectly summaries his entrepreneurial attitude as he continues to build his online profile.

"It's the first platform that took off for me, so I took off with it," Fricker said.

"I love it. I'll post anything. My theory is to keep going with the fishing rod until you catch some.

"I'll post three or four times a day, or whatever. It works for me, it's just what I do."

Those social videos are also his way to showcase diving, with his followers able to gain an insight as the clock ticked towards Tokyo 2020.

"I think it's awesome. I can really show an insight into what we're doing and our training. It just encompasses everything I do and I can share that to people watching," Fricker said.

"Although we might not get much media one way, we get more that way. It's really cool. I'm really amazed that so many people love diving."

The Cronulla-based athlete is one of four debutantes on the Australian diving team for Tokyo, alongside Cassiel Rousseau, Shixin Li and Nikita Hains.

Melissa Wu becomes the third Australian diver to contest four Olympics, while Rio bronze medallist Anabelle Smith has been named for her third and Esther Qin her second.

The seven-strong team is smaller than usual because in result of Covid-19, Diving Australia opted against sending athletes to the World Cup in Japan. It denied them a chance to earn quota spots in the synchro events.

Fricker secured his Olympics berth at the Australian Championships last month, when he finished second behind Rousseau (1395.05) in the 10m platform with a score of 1198.65.

He said the Games delay worked in his favour because he had extra time to fine tune his bid for qualification.

"I was happy to give it my all last year and hopefully make the team, but an extra year of preparation has done nothing but good for me," Fricker said.

"It did throw me off [at first] because my whole life I've looked towards Tokyo 2020, it's been my dream. It's a mental shift and it worked out for me."

Growing up in Newcastle, Fricker was drawn to diving as a 10-year-old with a background in gymnastics and was later inspired by Matthew Mitcham's triumph at Beijing 2008.

His family moved to Sydney as he started high school and he balanced the sport with his education at Trinity Grammer, where he would later become captain of the diving team.

This weekend will mark the end of Fricker's decade-long journey to Tokyo, with the heats to begin on Friday afternoon before Saturday's final.

But his debut will be slightly bittersweet, with the spectators ban meaning his family won't be able to watch from the stands at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

"You have the dream to do well and celebrate with your friends, family and coach. Not having that kind of sucks, but the alternative of not having [international spectators] at the Olympics is the advantage of making it safer for everyone," Fricker said.

"I think it's a much better alternative for the time we're in. I'd rather my mum not be there, I'd rather not worry about her getting Covid-19."