RIO DE JANEIRO -- U.S. 3-meter synchronized divers Sam Dorman and Michael Hixon competed on an international stage together for the first time Wednesday -- at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The duo competed together just once before the Games, at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials -- Diving from June 18-26, in which they won the 3-meter synchronized event to punch their tickets to Rio.
The result of their second effort? An Olympic silver medal.
Frequent changes in synchronized partners is common, but pairs often take a few meets to adjust to the other’s preferences. Before winning a bronze medal in the men’s synchronized 3-meter at the 2012 Games, U.S. divers Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen spent two years competing on the international circuit together.
“I think the transition, for me personally, has been pretty smooth,” Dorman said. “We had a mock meet before trials and our score from that was very satisfying. It’s panned out the way we wanted it to.”
Dorman and Hixon earned Olympic silver with a score of 450.21, less than five points behind gold medalists Jack Laugher and Chris Mears of Great Britain (454.32). Bronze medalists Yuan Cao and Kai Qin of China scored 443.70.
“The first few dives, I was very relaxed,” Dorman said. “It was kind of odd because I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous in our first international meet, let alone it being the Olympics.”
It was a day of firsts for Dorman and Hixon. Neither had competed at the Olympics before.
Their silver medal is the best American finish and only the second medal ever in the men’s 3-meter synchronized.
It is the second U.S. diving medal of this Olympics. David Boudia and Steele Johnson won silver in the synchronized platform competition Monday.
Hixon and Dorman were not completely unfamiliar with each other prior to trials however, as both have partnered with both members of the bronze-medal-winning duo from the 2012 Games, Dumais and Ipsen, at some point in their diving careers.
Dorman and Ipsen finished seventh at world championships last year. Hixon and Dumais finished fifth at 2013 worlds.
“I think it’s pretty special to have four guys who can all dive together,” Hixon said. “We had an opportunity to get us all in the pool together and select the team. I think we are pretty fortunate that it came out this way.”
As the rounds progressed in the Olympic final, it seemed as if the U.S. was guaranteed at least a bronze medal, with Dorman and Hixon in a solid third. Their final dive, a “109C” front 4 ½ somersault (Dorman’s favorite dive), scored a 98.04, the highest score of the competition. Dorman and Hixon leaped ahead of the Chinese into second.
“I was definitely very excited and definitely very in the moment (after our last dive),” Hixon said. “I’m just so happy with our performance. As soon as that dive happened, I was pretty sure we were a medal lock.”
The final round did not come without an unusual aspect of diving -- a weather delay. The Maria Lenk Aquatics Center, home of the Olympic diving competition, is an outdoor venue. Clouds filled the sky going into the sixth and final round, causing a delay in the competition.
“We were told to pray for rain and today we got that,” Dorman said. “Both of us were actually very excited that the weather was bad. I train in Miami, so I’m used to diving in bad weather. Having this was definitely a benefit for us.”
Hixon will compete in the men’s individual 3-meter competition, alongside Ipsen, beginning Monday.
Nicole Chrzanowski is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.