LONDON – The two American divers bounced on the springboards just like all the others had before them. They flipped and twisted in air, resembling Transformers more than athletes. But when Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen poked their heads out of the water, they were something else entirely: Olympics medallists.
Dumais knows exactly what that title means. He’s spent more than a quarter of his life being called a mere Olympian. He’d competed in the Olympics in Barcelona, Athens and Beijing, each time returning to his Ventura, Calif., home empty-handed. Turns out, the fourth time was the charm.
Dumais, 32, and his 19-year old partner won bronze in the men’s synchronized three-meter springboard Wednesday, marking the third time this week U.S. diving has captured a medal. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a diving team that hadn’t won a single medal since the 2000 Games.
Dumais had spent years carrying the heavy weight of expectations. When he let that go – a process that admittedly took three Olympic appearances -- he finally found his way to the podium.
“I put so much pressure on myself to actually do, that I didn’t,” he said. “My goal coming into this Olympics was enjoy the moment, have fun.
“I’ve dealt with so many people . . . that didn’t get what they wanted, whether it was in business or their athletic lives, and they’re still succeeding,” Dumais said. “So it really humbled me to the point where a medal would’ve been great -- I wanted to medal -- but it wasn’t the end-all.”
In fact, it was Ipsen, a first-time Olympian, who felt more burdened by Dumais’s lack of a medal. Ipsen was just 7 years old, glued to the television, when Dumais first dove at the Summer Games 12 years ago. Years later Ipsen was starstruck when he first met the veteran diver and says teaming with Dumais still feels “surreal.”
At lunch before Wednesday’s final, Dumais had to help settle Ipsen’s nerves.
“I was nervous,” the younger diver said. “It felt like extra pressure on me, knowing that he hadn’t had this medal.”
The U.S. duo finished Wednesday's competition with a score of 446.70, 30.3 points behind China’s gold medalists, Luo Yutong and Qin Kai. It was the Americans’ fourth dive that pushed them over the top. A reverse 2 ½ somersaults with 1 ½ twists is essentially a blur of spinning flesh.
It had been the trickiest dive for the pair. Last year Dumais scraped his back on the board. He still has the scars. But they nailed it Wednesday, marking their highest score of the competition.
“I am so proud of him for not giving up,” said Matt Scoggin, Dumais’s long-time coach. “A lot of people not medalling in their second Olympics or third Olympics might have hung up their Speedo. He still had the drive left in him when other people told him it was time to retire.”
Until this week, Dumais’s Olympic career had mirrored the struggles of U.S. Diving. But the medal drought was snapped Monday when Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston won the women’s synchronized three-meter springboard. Then on Monday David Boudia and Nick McCrory took bronze in the men’s synchronized 10-meter. And by time Dumais and Ipsen hit the board Wednesday, the U.S. team had turned a page.
“It’s a beginning,” Dumais said. “A lot of people have said, ‘well, we don’t really have to worry about U.S. diving any more.’ …These last three days of competition has been a great beginning. To the point where other countries better keep their eye out. We have talent and it goes deeper than most countries.”
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