Kristian Ipsen’s comeback story and quest to make his second Olympic team continued in a big way Monday night in Rio de Janeiro, when the 23-year-old accomplished something no U.S. diver had done in a decade.
Ipsen won the bronze medal in the men’s 3-meter competition at the FINA Diving World Cup, which also served as the Olympic test event. It is the first World Cup medal by a U.S. diver in the event since 2006, when Troy Dumais won bronze.
“I didn’t think this was how this was going to happen, but I’m really happy,” Ipsen said in an interview with USA Diving. “I actually felt zero pressure. The most pressure I felt was in the prelims because I wanted to be top 18 to get an Olympic spot for the U.S.”
Ipsen has had plenty of success internationally in synchronized diving, including an Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and a world silver medal in 2009 – both with Dumais, but his third-place finish in Rio marks his first individual international medal, and keeps his return to the sport alive. It was unclear if Ipsen would make a run at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after he stopped diving following the 2013 world championships and began working at a Silicon Valley tech firm. Since his return in December 2014, Ipsen has won five national titles (three individual, two synchro).
Ipsen’s performance in Sunday’s prelims achieved his goal of securing the U.S. an Olympic quota spot, but he was hungry for more. Ipsen led in the final after four dives, but missed his reverse 3½ tuck and fell to sixth with one dive to go. On his final dive, Ipsen attempted a front 2½ with three twists – the most difficult dive performed by any athlete that day – and catapulted back to third place with 95. 55 points. He finished the final with 457.60 points, behind gold medalist Rommel Pacheco of Mexico (504.40) and Jamaica’s Yona Knight-Wisdom (459.25)
“I was using a new dive at the end,” he said. “Thankfully it went well, and I was happy with it. I felt like I needed a little more adrenaline, and I definitely had that in the final.”
U.S. teammate Michael Hixon finished 12th in the final, securing the U.S. a second quota spot in men’s 3-meter for Rio. Team USA earned eight total quotas at the World Cup, adding to its two from the 2015 world championships.
Divers will attempt to fill those quotas June 18-26 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Diving in Indianapolis.