Troy Dumais is a twisting, flipping dynamo off the diving board, a man in motion until he slices into the water with hardly a splash.
But some folks see him as an immovable object. He’s been in the sport so long that they wonder why he hasn’t retired.
|Troy Dumais poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit on May 15, 2012 in Dallas.
At age 35, Dumais has made 20 straight national teams going back to 1996, won 38 national titles and is trying to become the first U.S. diver to compete in five Olympic Games. Dumais won his first Olympic medal, a bronze in men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard with Kristian Ipsen, at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“There’s a lot of people that still can’t believe I’m diving,” Dumais said, “and there’s a lot of people that can’t believe I’m diving and doing it so well.
“And there’s a lot of people that want me out of diving.”
He said parents assume their kids would qualify for national teams with Dumais out of the picture. He won both the AT&T National Diving Championships in August and the USA Diving Winter National Championships in December.
He tells those parents and coaches — many of them old friends who used to compete against him, “You want your kid to go somewhere? Then train them to beat me. If they can beat me, then they can mess with the world, but if they can’t beat me, they’re not going to have a shot in the world.”
Beginning May 15, Dumais will compete in the 2015 World Championship Individual Trials in Bloomington, Indiana. If he makes the team, it would be his ninth world championships. Two divers in each event qualify for the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August, with Olympic berths up for grabs.
“Sometimes it affects me emotionally and somewhat physically when people say, ‘Why aren’t you retired? You’ve done what you needed to do,’” said Dumais. “No, I haven’t.”
The bronze medal from London is “not the right color,” he said. And while Dumais has captured five medals at the world championships, none are gold. He has four silvers and a bronze.
“I don’t want to live in regret,” Dumais said. “I can always work behind a desk. I can always coach, but I’m not always going to be able to dive. I want to finish knowing that I gave it everything that I had; there’s nothing left. Everybody says there’s an animal instinct in what they do and when that animal is completely out of that person, it’s time to move on.
“And I still have a little bit of that fire, a little bit of that animal, a little bit of that spark. Once it goes out, then I know it’s going to be done.”
People trying to push Dumais out of the sport before he’s ready just add fuel to that fire.
“I’m going out on my terms versus someone else telling me to do it or someone convincing me that it’s a good idea to stop,” he said. “I’m not the strongest person out there, I’m not the quickest person out there, but I’ll tell you right now, I’m pretty dang consistent and I have the ability to flip and twist and then get in the water with relatively no splash.”
The second-oldest of the five diving Dumais siblings, Troy made his first national team at age 16. Only his younger brother, Dwight, who lives with him in Austin, Texas, is still an active diver. Dwight, 28, qualified for the world trials, but won’t compete because of an injury. Troy and older brother Justin dove together at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, finishing sixth in 3-meter synchro.
Dumais has learned to adjust his training because his body doesn’t recuperate like it did before. He practices twice a day and has weight training three days a week, pronouncing himself “probably stronger than I ever have been.”
After warming up on dry land for an hour, Dumais is good for another hour and 15 minutes in the water. “I used to be able to dive for two or three hours,” he said.
Instead of doing every dive multiple times every day, Dumais cuts his list in half and does only two or three – maybe five – of each, followed by basic skills. “That doesn’t beat me up,” he said.
Proving you can still teach an old diver new tricks, Dumais has added the front 4½ tuck to his repertoire. The dive has a 3.80 degree of difficulty and a maximum score of 108.30. It is high reward – but also high risk.
“My problem is I wasn’t trained to do big, big, big dives, and times have changed,” Dumais said. “Now it’s all about doing the big, big, big dives.”
He competed the front 4½ tuck for the first time in the final at the winter nationals in December, receiving 57 points. Scores at the world trials will be cumulative, with preliminaries, semifinals and finals all factoring into the results, so Dumais could substitute his front 3½ pike, (which has a 3.1 DD) in the earlier rounds.
“I’m ultimately going to be using (the 4½ tuck) when it comes to the Olympics because you need it,” said Dumais. “It’s a DD game.”
In London three years ago, he was fifth individually on the springboard and believes his lower degree of difficulty cost him a medal.
“So I came home going, ‘OK, I’m not going to allow someone to beat me (with DD),’” he said. “I want to be doing the big dives and then we figure it out based on score. They might not be 9s or 10s right now because you go through a learning process, but I’m doing them and I’m doing them more than a year out.”
Dumais said the diving world has gotten better across the board. “Everybody’s stepping on everybody’s toes,” he said. “Even China, their top dogs are struggling because more male athletes are doing the harder dives.”
|David Boudia and Troy Dumais dive in the men's 3-meter synchro springboard final during the FINA/NVA Diving World Series 2014 at the Hamdan Sports Complex on March 20, 2014 in Dubai.
Dumais also still competes in synchronized diving, though he did not qualify for worlds in the event. Ipsen and Sam Dorman will be the U.S. team in Kazan. Dumais dove with both Ipsen 22, and Dorman, 23, at the USA Diving Synchronized National Championships. He’ll team up with Dorman at a FINA World Series meet in Canada the week after the world individual trials.
“I love working with other people and having someone next to me and helping them,” Dumais said. “They push me and I push them.”
Missing the world team in synchro diving “is very tough to swallow, because I wanted to be a part of it,” he said, “but I’ve been working even harder.”
The pace of competing with both teammates at nationals, where they were up on the board every 3 minutes during the final, took a toll on Dumais.
“It doesn’t matter that I’ve been diving 31, almost 32 years, you always learn something else,” he said. “I wasn’t able to adapt fast enough.”
Going into the world individual trials, he’ll know he’s done everything he can to prepare.
“I won’t have that doubt that I didn’t spend the time,” he said. “There are a lot of times that I had competitions, and I thought, ‘Well, I should have worked harder.’ I’ve put everything on the line, and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But if it does happen, it just shows that I’m still capable of doing it.”
On the flip side, such all-out effort has taken a toll on Dumais’ personal life.
“I don’t have a significant other, even though I would love to come home to someone,” he said. “I had someone very special in my life, and I was just gone way too much. I tried to bring her with me and do fun things with her, but she had a life, and she had to work and she couldn’t be away.
“I still think of her, but then I look at this way: Maybe it was meant to happen that way, so I can finish off my diving career the way I needed to do it, because when you’re worried about people at home, you’re not taking care of yourself and what you need to do.”
Dumais, who said he doesn’t have the energy for the dating scene, admits that he did contemplate retirement.
“There’s a point of diminishing returns and I have to start a life,” said. “I mean I’m 35 years old, it’s not like I’m going to be able to just jump into a family and a career immediately. You’re going to have to figure it out and that’s my worry. There’s no retirement fund for diving. I’m going to have to start over.”
To pay the bills, he works in compliance and tutoring for his alma mater, the University of Texas. Dumais tutors one-on-one in computer sciences, kinesiology, anatomy, biology, physics and math.
He has thought of pursuing a career as a chiropractor, but needs more classes and doesn’t have the time to take them.
“Diving came a lot easier to me when I was younger,” Dumais said. “The difference that I have now is the idea that there are certain things that I can’t do. You can’t burn the candle from both ends. You have to stay positive; there’s no negativity. You can’t let outside stressors into the pool — otherwise it engulfs you. That’s the hardest part of getting older, that you have more responsibilities, you have all these things that end up creating issues and conflicts in your life.”
Despite these demands, he still makes time to help younger divers.
“I love working with the athletes,” Dumais said. “If they ask me a question, I share information, how I do things, or what I do.
“I love coaching. I love teaching, I love tutoring. I love the idea of helping someone reach their dreams.”
But Dumais won’t step aside for them to reach those dreams. He still has dreams of his own.
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 14 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.