Her Road to Beijing:
Laura Wilkinson burst onto the international diving scene in 2000 with her come from behind win on platform. Entering finals in Sydney in eighth place, she upset the Chinese divers for the only U.S. gold that year, and the first platform gold for a U.S. female since Leslie Bush in 1964. After a disappointing fifth place finish in Athens, she won a world championship in 2005 and has one more shot at another gold before retiring. Born and raised in Texas, she trains in Houston with her longtime coach Kenny Armstrong.
Laura has had a career filled with success, but has always been in the shadow of the Chinese divers. She has classic diving bodylines and is quick enough to do many of the harder dives needed to compete with the world’s best. Her best attribute though, is that she always seems to be smiling and has a great attitude when in the heat of the battle. This allows her to be a tough competitor. Case in point, she received scores of 4 and 4.5 on a 207B (reverse 3 ½ somersaults in pike) at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials. Her next dive, perfection – all 10s on a 307C (reverse 3 ½ somersaults tuck).
What to Look For:
Laura has added more difficulty to her diving list since her fifth place finish in 2004, and that could put her in the position to earn a second Olympic medal. But with more difficulty, comes more risk. She has had problems with her 207B (back 3 ½ somersaults in pike), and that showed at the FINA World Cup and U.S. Olympic Diving Trials. She did not have a great meet at the world cup finishing 12th, but she didn’t dive all that well prior to the Sydney Games either. Coincidence or omen?
At 5-6, Laura looks more like the girl next door than an Olympic medalist. Do not be deceived, her 19 national titles, Olympic gold medal and 2005 world championship attest to her abilities. No one gave her much of a chance in 2000 – no one except herself. In 2008, she will gladly relinquish the role, and the pressure of being the favorite to the Chinese. If self-confidence is the final piece of the puzzle for Olympic success, Laura may well earn medal number two and make the front of another Wheaties box.