A lot was at stake at the 2012 USA Diving Winter Nationals in Knoxville, Tenn. Despite the odd twist of contesting the 2012 championship in 2011, every diver in the building knew that the stakes were high. Why?
Outside of the obvious chance to win a national championship – which in any other year would be enough, the meet was a qualifying event for two major competitions that will take place in 2012 – the Olympic Trials and the FINA World Cup.
First the trials; this national championship offered the last chance for divers to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving, to be held in June in Federal Way, Wash. Divers had already had numerous chances to qualify, so this was a pseudo “last chance” meet if you will.
While qualifying for the Olympic Trials is important, what held even more importance was that the top two divers in each of the individual events (excluding 1-meter) and the top team in each of the synchronized events qualified to represent the U.S. at the 2012 FINA World Cup in London in February.
And what made this doubly important is that the 2012 World Cup is the last chance for countries to qualify for a spot to compete in the Olympic Games – and that includes the U.S. team who as of the start of the event still needed to qualify for a second spot in individual women’s platform and men’s springboard, and for all four synchronized spots. Needless to say the results of this competition were important, as will be the results from the London World Cup.
Men’s Synchronized Springboard
Men’s synchronized springboard was the first medal awarded at Winter Nationals, and although anything can happen in diving, this was one event in which the outcome was, while not predetermined, pretty much a sure thing.
Pan Am silver medalists Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen were the clear favorites and they did not disappoint as they won their sixth synchronized springboard title as a team by almost 100 points over silver medalists Drew Livingston and Chris Colwill.
The teams performed two lists of dives (prelims and finals) in order simulate the conditions the divers will face at the World Cup in February, with the combined total determining the winner.
Despite the fact that Dumais and Ipsen were the clear winners, there was quite a bit of good synchro being performed in this event and that obviously bodes well for the future. If you want to win internationally a big help is to make the competition domestically as tough, if not tougher than you will face for the big prizes like world championships and Olympic medals.
Men’s 3-meter Springboard
Men’s springboard turned out to be a battle royal between Chris Colwill, Kristian Ipsen and Drew Livingston. The fact that since the winner was determined by the combined scores of the prelim, semifinal and final, made each and every dive important - you couldn’t afford to blink, because if you did you might find yourself out of the runing pretty quickly.
There was no lack of quit in any of these divers as they continually upped the ante after each dive. It is a shame that one of them had to be left off the World Cup team, but those are the rules.
The semifinals were one of the best contested events I have seen in quite a while; no shrinking violets in this bunch. The finals were much the same with Drew and Kristian finishing 1-2 in that six dive contest as they battled extremely hard to catch leader Chris Colwill and grab the second qualifying spot for the World Cup. Kristian was consistently good after a shakey prelim, while Drew threw in some spectactular dives, including a reverse 3 ½ in tuck and a forward 4 ½ in tuck that were incredible.
The event was won by Colwill, who is back to compete for a spot on his second Olympic Team and regardless of whether he makes the team or not it is definitely good to have a diver of his caliber helping to raise the quality in men’s springboard.
His finals were good, but not great, but he did what he needed to do finish first and guarantee a trip to London.
In fourth was Troy Dumais, who might have had it in the back of his mind that if he qualified for the World Cup he would not have been able to compete for the remaining Olympic slot having already earned one for the U.S. at the most recent World Championships.
Women’s 3-meter Springboard
Much like the men’s event, women’s 3-meter was a three-list, two-day grind to win a national title and earn a trip to the World Cup. As it has been for the past year or so, the event came down to five divers – Kelci Bryant, Christina Loukas, Cassidy Krug and Kassidy Cook, and Abby Johnston battling for the top two spots.
During the prelims and semifinals it seemed as though these divers were a bit nervous, just keeping themselves in the mix waiting for finals. Unfortunately, since the scores accumulate, if you are too hesitant then you might just find yourself too far behind during finals to make a run. This is what happened to Abby Johnston who did not have her best “stuff” and found herself, despite being in fifth almost 70 points behind the leader after the semis.
But who this did benefit was Kelci Bryant who is “Steady Eddy,” and doesn’t miss a dive. The result … she led by 17 points heading into finals.
Then Kelci did something that is uncharacteristic of her. She blew a dive – she received 5’s on a forward 3 ½. Then after another round, she got 6’s on a reverse 2 ½ in pike and if the door was open after the 3 ½, it was off the hinges after her reverse and bursting through came Cassidy and Christina.This time there was no hesitancy in their dives as the two finished 1-2, with Cassidy 1.35 points ahead of Christina followed by Kelci and Kassidy Cook.
In fifth place was Bianca Alvarez, who may have had the best semifinal and final rounds of diving in the field. If we see that kind of diving from her in June at the Olympic Trials she could definitely turn some heads!
Women's Synchronized Springboard
The key word for women’s springboard was redemption; redemption in the fact that the two women who won the event and made the World Cup team got a bit of redemption after their performances in the individual springboard.
So what am I really talking about? Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston paired up to provide an upset of Christina Loukas and Kassidy Cook. And their upset provided a bit of solace for the two who let an individual title and World Cup team berth slip away earlier in the week. After finishing ninth, Abby Johnston was never really in the hunt for the individual title and after leading heading into the finals; Kelci let her chance at a trip to London slip away in her final six dives.
But the pair are sure to relish their victory as they get their chance to test out the new Olympic pool and hopefully earn the U.S. a synchro berth on springboard. And the two need to be as good as they were in the synchro finals because the competition to earn one of the three remaining synchro spots will be tough!