It’s been nearly a year since the Olympic Games in Rio, but Sam Dorman still has trouble putting into words how it felt after he and 3-meter synchronized partner Michael Hixon finished their last dive.
There’s the video, of course, showing Dorman pumping his fist in the air and Hixon letting out a roar as he slams his hands down into the water shortly after their silver-medal-clinching dive. But to describe the feeling?
“It’s hard,” Dorman said. “I just remember piking out and seeing green water, then looking out and seeing our coaches going crazy and my parents going crazy. It doesn’t get any better than that. That’s what we strive for.”
After winning the U.S. title in 3-meter synchro in April, Dorman and Hixon would now love to add a world title to their résumés. They, along with 14 other members of Team USA, will be competing at the FINA World Championships beginning Friday in Budapest, Hungary.
Dorman, 25, and Hixon, 22, had never competed together prior to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last summer, but at the final synchro camp before the trials then-high performance director Steve Foley decided that the two should be paired together. They shared similar strengths, but still needed to beat out defending Olympic bronze medalists Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen in order to earn a spot in Rio.
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A mock meet just before the trials was enough to convince Dorman that they were capable of doing just that, and the result was as they’d hoped.
They had never competed together internationally before making their Olympic debuts. The silver medal was the highest finish ever for the American men in the synchronized 3-meter event.
The two divers’ social media feeds document the highs of returning home not just as Olympians, but also as medalists. There’s the picture on Dorman’s Instagram of him shaking President Barack Obama’s hand during a trip to the White House. Hixon has a similar photo on his Instagram, and they both rank the meeting as among the coolest experiences they had post-Olympics.
In January, Dorman and Dumais traveled to Thule Air Base in Greenland as part of a USA Diving program called “Dive into Service” that builds relationships between athletes and military service members as they share experiences representing the United States.
Even more adventurous, Dorman did a backflip out of a helicopter into the Pacific Ocean with members of the Yes Theory, a group of social media stars who document their worldwide adventures in pushing past their comfort zones.
Hixon said his post-Olympic outings weren’t quite that crazy, but he did enjoy throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park.
He also had to come home and get back into the routine of college life. Hixon, who also competed in the 3-meter springboard at the Olympics and finished 10th, was a redshirt junior at Indiana this past season. He earned two All-America honors at the 2017 NCAA championships and was named the top diver at the Big Ten championships.
“It was great to get back to college and the college grind,” said Hixon, adding that any additional recognition he got around campus was nothing compared to swimmer Lilly King, who won gold medals in the 100-meter breaststroke and the women’s 4x100 medley. “(Competing in the Olympics) was absolutely big for my confidence. Any time you compete on that stage it helps with everything else.”
Hixon had already earned a trip to Budapest in the 1-meter event after winning the USA Diving Winter National Championship in December, and when he and Dorman got back together to prepare for the USA Diving Synchronized National Championships in April they fell back in step immediately.
“It was nice to get back together to start synching up,” said Dorman, who also has spent time since the Olympics working to find sponsors so he can continue his training in his post-college career. “It usually just clicks.”
Their competition in Hungary will be fierce, including British 2016 Olympic gold medalists Jack Laugher and Chris Mears, who are both back from injuries, as well as Rio bronze medalists Cao Yuan and Xie Siyi of China. The Americans aren’t backing down though.
“We want to win,” Dorman said. “That’s our goal.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.