Thomas Finchum turned to music after retiring from competitive diving in 2012.
The Road to Rio Tour presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance makes a stop this week at the crossroads of Thomas Finchum’s future and his past.
The Olympic diver retired from the sport in 2012 at age 22, and now he follows his dream of becoming a country music artist.
On Friday, Finchum, who resides in Nashville, will take center stage in his hometown of Indianapolis to showcase his musical talents during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Diving. The performance is part of the Road to Rio Tour presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance.
“It’ll be exciting because not only will I be back in the town I grew up, but I’ll play in front of a lot people. Some know me as a musician, and a lot know me as an athlete,” Finchum said. “The Olympics and USA Diving were always a big part of my life, and it’s pretty cool to see these two worlds come together.”
The Road to Rio Tour launched in 2015 and includes nine stops at cities around the country. The tour brings the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Team USA fans. Elements of the tour include interactive sport participation, virtual-reality experiences, athlete meet and greet and Team USA giveaways and sponsor engagement.
Finchum will play a live music show during this week’s stop and said he’ll also sing the national anthem Thursday prior to the final of the men’s 10-meter synchronized diving — an event he competed in at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, in addition to the 10-meter individual event.
Finchum’s departure from diving was fairly non-descript, unlike his foray into the sport.
As a child he followed his sister’s stellar gymnastics career from one event to another. He never got into that sport because his sister’s gym didn’t have a men’s team, but his parents knew he needed an activity or sport to keep him occupied.
“One day while out with the family on a houseboat, my grandmother said she would teach me how to dive,” Finchum said. “Then she climbed to the top of the houseboat and dove into the water.”
The then-7-year-old Finchum tried it and got hooked. He soared to great heights in the sport as a 10-meter specialist.
He could nail his reverse three-and-a-half tuck or try like heck not to make a big splash when he performed the difficult back two-and-a-half with a two-and-a-half twist, which he said was his hardest dive.
After narrowly missing the cut for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, he retired from the sport to join his band Northern Nights.
“Music had always been a part of my life,” Finchum said. “I had started writing songs in my spare time when I wasn’t training. We put together a band, released some music and got to do some cool things.”
They recorded a handful of songs with Finchum as lead singer, and the Olympian ultimately decided to take his singing career solo. He moved to Nashville and now works as a writer. Finchum said he collaborates with other writers to work on songs together, hoping a big-time publisher or musician notices them.
He said he’s close to signing a deal with a publisher. This would be a proverbial big weight off his shoulders — proverbial in the sense that a shoulder injury also led him to retirement. Part of a publishing deal is getting guidance in the industry through an artist development program.
Finchum continues to play gigs as a solo artist with a band from Nashville that will make the trip to Indianapolis with him. He said he’s written around 100 songs in the year he’s been in Nashville, including “Polaroid Picture,” which is about his family and his life, and will be part of his set in Indianapolis.
The country genre drew Finchum more than any other because of its down-home feel.
“I grew up listening to country music,” said Finchum, who listed Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson and Keith Urban among his earliest country influences, along with rock’s John Mayer. “As a songwriter I’m drawn to the stories in country music and the ability to connect to people with the words I’m saying or singing.”
Finchum said he keeps an eye on diving and looks for veterans like Troy Dumais and Sam Dorman to make the Olympic team in springboard, and 2012 Olympic gold medalist David Boudia and newcomer Steele Johnson — who are also syncho partners — to make it in platform.
The Road to Rio Tour has four stops remaining that include Indianapolis (June 24-25), Chicago (July 6-10), Los Angeles (July 23-24) and Birmingham, Alabama (Sept. 10).
Scott McDonald is a Houston-based freelance writer who has 18 years experience in sports reporting and feature writing. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.