The men’s three-meter springboard final, on the last day of competition at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials could not have been more dramatic, even if it was scripted. The script began with Kristian Ipsen holding a solid 39.3 point lead and as most the diving faithful believed, Troy Dumais and Chris Colwill sitting in second and third competing for the remaining Olympic team spot.
The drama came in the round five, and it came in the form of a reverse 3 ½ tuck by Ipsen that was short of vertical, scored 47.25 points and dropped him from a 25.15 point lead in round 4, to third behind Colwill and Dumais with one dive remaining.
Separated by 2.4 points with one dive left to make the Olympic team, you could not have created more tension if you had tried. And everyone, including Colwill, Dumais and Ipsen, knew how close it was.
Asked if he knew the scores Colwill said, “Oh yeah, the scoreboard is pretty big. It’s kind of hard to avoid that."
“I knew, I knew,” said Ipsen. “I knew it was going to be close and I knew that Chris was going to hit his gainer.”
The final round set up like this: Colwill would go first with a reverse 3 ½ tuck (the dive referred to as a gainer), then Dumais with a forward 2 ½ somersaults with 2 twists, and finally Ipsen with a reverse 1 ½ with 3 twists. Colwill held a slight advantage with his dive holding a degree of difficulty of 3.5, while Dumais and Ipsen’s dives had a 3.4 difficulty.
Colwill would dive first and once he hit the water it was obvious that the battle was then for second. Colwill’s dive was on the money and he received scores of 9 and 9.5, finishing with 1457.45 points. Only Dumais could catch him and he would need 102 points, requiring at least five 10’s from the judges.
Next came Dumais with a dive that he had moved to the end of his diving list.
I knew that this was going to be a nail biter,” said Dumais. “And that’s why I switched my list. I changed my second dive, which I normally do 5154 (forward 2 ½ somersaults with 2 twists) and I put it last knowing that it was gonna come down to the last dive.”
It was the right move as he hit his dive for 9’s and 9.5’s and 91.8 points. Not enough to overtake Colwill but enough to make it a difficult task for Ipsen to pass him.
So it came down to Ipsen with an Olympic berth on the line. It is the position that many divers have dreamed about - the final diver in a tight competition to make the Olympic team, and all you have to do is do a really great dive.
Ipsen did do a really great dive, receiving scores of 9 and 9.5, but unfortunately for him it scored the same amount of points as Dumais’ dive and he suddenly became an alternate.
“I’m happy I ended strong … I thought I had made it,” said Ipsen. “It’s a learning experience.”
Ipsen will head to London though, but not in 3-meter springboard. Ironically he will compete with Dumais in synchronized springboard.
All three divers are no strangers to pressure situations, but the now four-time Olympic qualifier Dumais’ age and experience definitely played a role in his performance. But as he will be the first to admit, pressure situations are never easy to deal with.
“You are never quite prepared for this,” said Dumais. “You have to learn to do one dive at a time. You just never know what can happen. You have to stay in your world.”
Also an Olympic veteran at the age of 27, Colwill felt the pressure of the competition.
“I would say that was in the top two, or maybe top three (pressure situations),” said Colwill “I’m happy that I took it one dive at a time. That took a lot of patience.”
The 3-meter competition marked a new beginning for Thomas Finchum as the two-time world medalist and 11-time national champion officially retired from diving competition after a fourth place finish in the event.
Finchum burst onto the national spotlight in 2004 finishing second on platform at the Olympic trials, but not being selected to the team due to since changed selection procedures. He qualified in 2008, finishing 12th in platform and fifth in synchronized platform.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Finchum. “It was a fun competition all the way. To end up where I did, I’m really happy.”
As for the immediate future, both Colwill and Dumais will head back to their respective coaches to make final preparations before they head to London.
“I’m gonna enjoy this for the moment,” said Colwill. “Then when I get home I’ll get back to business.”
The men's Olympic 3-meter competition begins in London on August 6.