You knew it was going to be close … and it was. Separated by only 6.51 points after two rounds and 40 dives between the four divers, the top two synchro teams - Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnson, and Christina Loukas and Kassidy Cook, went toe-to-toe, or rather dive-for-dive for another 20 dives.
The result was an exciting and suspense filled exhibition of synchronized diving, and the only drawback of the competition was that someone had to finish first, and someone had to finish second.
But since they only allow one synchro team to go to the Olympics, it will be Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston who will head to London next month. The winners finished just .42 points ahead of Loukas and Cook and despite leading throughout the final, it looked as if Loukas and Cook might steal the victory with their final dive.
Down by 1.32 points, Loukas and Cook did a forward 2 ½ somersaults with one twist for execution scores of 8 and 8.5, and synchro scores of 9. The result was a total of 78.4 points – the highest scoring dive in any of the three rounds. Definitely a dive that would put pressure on even the most seasoned diver(s).
“I totally looked at the scoreboard,” said Bryant. ‘And I knew we needed a really good dive.”
So what it came down to was that Bryant and Johnston needed a big finish and 76.98 points to make the team.
And that is what they did.
Their back 2 ½ somersault in pike scored 77.4 points and the celebration was on.
“My cheeks hurt from smiling so much,” said Johnston, barely able to contain herself after the contest. “I’m in shock. It’s the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had.”
“Making it four years ago was great,” added Bryant. “But there wasn’t this feeling that time. It wasn’t on TV.”
Loukas and Cook put forth a huge effort in finals and outscored Bryant and Johnston on each of their five dives, but in the end it wasn’t enough despite a final round of 324.69 – a score that would have won a silver medal at the 2011 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games.
While disconsolate, Loukas and Cook were gracious to the victors.
“We’re devastated but it was a good competition,” Loukas said in a statement. “Kass and I fought to the end and I’m happy we could put pressure on them. They handled it well, and they deserve to go.”
So after consistently building and holding a lead over three rounds, and winning on their final dive, Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston had earned the right to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games.
So what is next for Bryant and Johnston as they prepare for their date with London? They will head back to their respective coaches – University of Minnesota coach Win Bo for Kelci, and Duke coach Drew Johansen for Abby, and work on individual preparation.
“Our timing is outstanding,” explained Bryant. “It’s more about getting our individual dives.”Having been to the Games in 2008, Bryant also has clear vision of what to expect and of the end goal, a vision she will share with Johnston.
Take it in and enjoy it,” explained Bryant. “But we are here to do a job. Getting up on the podium is what we want to do.”
The two will get that chance on July 29 when they open the diving competition at the 2012 Olympic Games.