A couple of medals, some pressure dives, plus a little experience with wind, rain and drama — for an Olympic shakedown, USA Diving’s envoys squeezed everything they could out of the FINA Diving World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.
Well, just about everything.
The only thing the U.S. divers didn’t get done was filling all of the Olympic quota spots available to them in their last chance to earn them for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games in August. But 10 out of 12 isn’t bad.
The medals — both bronzes — went to Kristian Ipsen in the men’s 3-meter event and 18-year-old David Dinsmore, who won a stirring battle with teammate Steele Johnson for the last podium spot in 10-meter platform.
But securing those quota spots was the U.S. divers’ main mission in the Olympic test event at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Centre, making some of the preliminaries as pressure-heavy as the finals. Having already filled one spot each in men’s and women’s 10-meter platform at last year’s FINA World Championships, the Americans had zeroed in on the remaining 10 (to a maximum of two in the individual events, and one in each of the synchronized disciplines).
They missed two of them, when Abby Johnston did not advance to the semifinals in women’s 3-meter, and then in the women’s 3-meter synchronized event when Johnston and Laura Ryan needed to finish no worse than seventh — and came up 3.24 points shy.
There is an outside chance Team USA could add more quotas if not all spots are filled in June, when final entries are received by FINA. At this point, the 10 spots secured by the Americans are down from the 11 they sent to London in 2012 and the full 12 they had in 2008 in Beijing.
The divers themselves weren’t qualifying; they were nailing down country quota spots. USA Diving will decide its team for Rio at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis June 18-26.
Still, there were a number of takeaways to be gleaned from the World Cup:
1) Divers Excel Against The Elements
The Maria Lenk facility is without a roof — despite FINA’s protests — and competitors will have to be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions when they compete there in August at the Rio Games. The U.S. divers passed that test on a couple of fronts, helped by an earlier outdoor training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they had to deal with some rain.
In women’s 10-meter synchro in Rio, Amy Cozad and Jessica Parratto had just jumped from seventh to fifth — just a point and a half ahead for the final quota spot — when rain began to fall. While several rivals balked in the conditions, the American duo jumped to fourth in the final round, 8.88 points out of a medal spot.
Likewise, Johnson and 10-meter partner and Olympic gold medalist David Boudia fought through wind and rain in the final, climbing out of seventh place to take fourth.
2) U.S. Goes Deep In The 10
Boudia is very much the face of USA Diving: He’s won 20 national championships and silver medals in three world championships, in addition to his 2012 Olympic gold medal in the 10-meter platform. But while he concentrated on his synchro event at the World Cup, the individual 10-meter was in good hands.
Dinsmore and Johnson didn’t threaten China’s 1-2 punch of Qiu Bo and Chen Aisen, but their own duel was dramatic enough. Johnson vaulted from eighth place to third in Round 4, then saw Dinsmore score 95.20 points on a 3 1/2 tuck on his fifth dive to move within 0.55. Then the University of Miami freshman soared past Johnson to the bronze medal with a 91.8 on a back 2 1/2 with 2 1/2 twists.
Building on Boudia’s haul, the United States has now medaled in this event in five of the last seven major world events.
3) Kassidy’s Back
She might not have all the rust off yet, but Kassidy Cook’s return to international competition after three years away due to injury was at least a qualified success. The 20-year-old Texan was seventh in the women’s 3-meter — up from 11th in the prelims, which assured Team USA of at least one Olympic spot in the event.
4) The Ipsen Factor
A 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in 3-meter synchro, Ipsen went through something of an emotional whipsaw in Rio. First he and partner Sam Dorman had to rally from behind to grab the final quota spot in that event, coming from nearly five points down on their final dive to nip Canadians Philippe Gagne and Francois Imbeau-Dulac by just 0.36.
Then the 23-year-old Stanford grad became the first U.S. World Cup medalist in the individual 3-meter since Troy Dumais, his 2012 Olympic synchro partner, won bronze in 2006. And Ipsen did it in wild fashion — leaping from fourth to first with a big fourth-round dive, then plummeting to sixth and finally nailing a front 2 1/2 with three twists on his final dive to score 95.55 points and finish third.
Ipsen is one of five U.S. divers who will compete in the upcoming FINA Diving World Series in China, UAE, Canada and Russia in March and April. He’ll be joined by Boudia, Cozad, Dorman and Johnson, based on their top-seven showings at last year’s world championships.