Duke has made a splash in London by, well, not making much of a splash. Divers Abby Johnston and Nick McCrory have both stood up on the podium to receive their well deserved hardware, Johnston taking silver with McCrory winning bronze. The two synchronized divers won the first diving medals for the United States since the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia, and the first Olympic synchronized diving medals in U.S. history.
The Charlotte Observer looked back on Johnston’s diving partner, Kelci Bryant, and her near miss in Beijing four years ago as well as how the pair uses the Chinese diving duo, who won gold, to better their own dives.
“My heart rate was going, but I knew Abby was going to do a great dive,” said Bryant, who acknowledged she was scoreboard-watching on the final dive in 2008, a mental error that led to an agonizing fourth-place finish. This time, she said, she never peeked.
What made this year’s silver even more special was how close Bryant and Johnston came to missing out on the opportunity to compete for it. They beat Kassidy Cook and Christina Loukas at the Olympic trials by 42-hundredths of a point over 15 dives, a margin akin to winning a 10K by outleaning your opponent at the tape.
Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel took the bronze – Canada’s first medal of the Games – but they and the Americans were both far behind the Chinese team of Wu Minxia and He Zi.
China has dominated Olympic diving for years; Wu’s gold was her third in a row in the event. Chinese divers won seven of the eight diving golds in Beijing in 2008, and the country is aiming for a sweep this year. That makes each silver more precious: the de facto gold medal for the rest of the world.
ESPN‘s Jim Caple ran a piece on Nick McCrory and partner David Boudia’s upset over hometown favorite and media sweetheart Tom Daley and his partner Peter Waterfield. McCrory talked about the 2011 championships, where McCrory missed a dive due to scoreboard watching.
So the British hopes were high for a medal, especially after Daley and partner Peter Waterfield were ranked first halfway through the six-dive competition with 203.88 points, their highest score ever at the halfway point. A gold-medal upset over the Chinese was looking very possible.
But then, the two destroyed their chances with a fourth dive that was so bad even a baseball writer could tell it was disastrous before the judges posted their scores. Daley kicked early and went short. Waterfield kicked too high and rotated too far. They fell from first to last.
Which is when things got very interesting for the Americans, because that terrible dive left McCrory and Boudia in third place with a medal tantalizingly within reach.
“It’s almost harder to continue hitting dives when another team opens the door because you can see it. You say, ‘Wow, I can medal,’” McCrory said. “That happened to us in the 2011 championships. Russia missed a dive and Germany missed a dive right after. We had a silver medal in the palm of our hands and I lost sight of the dive we were on. I was thinking of being on the podium, and we ended up fifth because I missed my dive.
“I learned a lot from that for this competition. It’s hard to stay focused, but I made my mistake [in 2011] and I wasn’t going to make it twice.”
The Kansas City Star‘s Scott Fowler caught up with Duke and team USA diving head coach Drew Johansen, who said, “The Blue Devils got serious about diving about six years ago and look where we’re at now.” The Star also shed light on what Nick McCrory’s mindset was heading into his event, and what effect the crowd’s adoration for Tom Daley had on the Americans.
Before the last one of their six dives Monday, Nick McCrory and David Boudia fist-bumped.
“Let’s do this,” said McCrory, 20.
Then the two of them climbed to the height of a three-story building, walked out in front of the crowd, stood on the tip of the 10-meter platform and turned backwards.
They relaxed their shoulders and lowered their arms together. Boudia counted out loud. “One, two, three….”
It was a literal leap into the unknown. One more great dive would likely win a bronze medal for the U.S. pair of synchronized divers. But a duo from Great Britain had raucous crowd support and was close behind in fourth place.
McCrory and Boudia did 2 1/2 somersaults while incorporating 2 1/2 twists, which is so much harder than anything you’ve ever seen anyone do at a neighborhood pool it’s incomprehensible. They hit the water at 35 mph.
“We put that one last because it’s a high degree of difficulty and we feel very comfortable with it,” McCrory said. “It’s a dive we can do well under pressure.”
And they nailed it. Each diver entered the water with about the amount of splash you’d see if you threw an arrowhead into a pond. The judges awarded them 95.04 points, which was the pair’s best score of the day.
Finally, the Chicago Tribune‘s Brian Hamilton reveals what Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant did the morning of their historic dives. The feature also gives a background of Johnston and Bryant’s history as diving partners, dating back to 2010.
After both Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston folded every article of clothing in their rooms, the synchronized diving tandem headed to the bus Sunday morning. En route, Johnston turned to Bryant with a muted reminder: Don’t forget to bring the podium outfit. You know … just in case.
And after a breakfast and some episodes of “Burn Notice” and “Pretty Little Liars,” bobbing along to the musicin her headphones, contemplating a meet that would be her last, Bryant was in a happy place and offered her own reminder to Johnston: No matter what, we’ve done amazing things. I love you.
“We had this weird moment,” Bryant said. “It was super corny. SUPER corny.”
“It was,” Johnston added. “Afterwards we were both like, that was corny, put our headphones on and just walked away.”