To give you a sense of how entrancing this sight was, it took me a solid 15 minutes before I noticed that Greg Louganis had taken a seat on the bleachers a few feet away from me. The 52-year-old legend said that his diving days are over (His current fitness regimen? Spinning and yoga.), so he was there to serve as a mentor.
“I work with them on anything that comes up: stress, expectations, the press, what’s going on with their families,” explained Louganis, who says Olympic success demands a holistic approach.
That approach also includes a lot of hard work, only a fraction of which was on display at the training camp.
Katie Bell, a 24-year-old who competes in the 10-meter platform dive, walked me through her regular routine. “If practice starts at 9, I’m there at 7:15,” she said. She devotes the first part of her morning to an unexpected part of her body: her hair. It needs to be immobile, so she won’t need to touch it for the rest of the day.
She kicks off her warmup by jumping rope and launches into a series of exercises, including arm circles, lunges and heel raises. Although the key to a dive is leg strength, which determines how much height you can get, Bell makes sure not to ignore her upper body.
“If I hit the water the wrong way, and my arms collapse, I could get injured,” Bell said. She does handstand push-ups to make sure that won’t happen.
For her abs, she performs a hollow hold, which is the reverse of a plank. You lie down on your back, then lift your chest, arms and legs off the floor. She adds some alternating leg kicks for more core work. “Doing all of that, you start sweating,” Bell said. “If you’re not, you’re not doing it right.”
Then, Bell, who was also a gymnast as a child, likes to practice every single kind of dive — front, back, gainer, inward, twister — on mats. It’s only after her mat time that she’ll touch the water, where she’ll spend another three hours or more.
Because diving is, for the most part, an individual sport, everyone has a slightly different approach to training. So although Bell and most of the rest of the team gathered on the pool deck to prep, I spotted co-captain Chris Colwill outside going through a series of running drills on a nearby basketball court. He shuffled his feet, jogged backward and, every once in a while, jumped up to the hoop to hang for a few seconds.
“I’ve always taken an unorthodox approach,” said the 27-year-old, who’s headed to his second Olympic Games in the three-meter springboard. “I like warming up outside and that sense of freedom away from everything.” He usually bikes to practice, and if he has access to a stadium, he’ll jump between the bleachers.