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Youth Olympic Diver Jack Matthews Talks Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder And His Mentality At The Games

By Gabrielle Scheder-Bieschin | Oct. 14, 2018, 8:18 p.m. (ET)

Jack Matthews warms up ahead of competing in men's 3-meter springboard diving at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 on Oct. 14, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


With one event down, diver Jack Matthews is staying focused on the competition ahead. One of two divers representing Team USA at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, Jack Matthews is ready to get back in the pool and continue pushing himself to the best diver he can be for Team USA.

“It’s about representing the best country in the world, and just laying it all out in the pool,” Matthews said. “It’s about trying to do everything you can to win and just not giving up.”

Matthews knows a few things about not giving up. As a child, he was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. But like most athletes, Matthews gives a positive spin to something that people might otherwise consider a setback. Because his particular OCD compels him to want to do all things properly, he says it “actually kind of helps” with his training – it often leads to him practicing a dive maybe a little more than necessary, until he knows he has it right.

“A lot of times in school, especially on tests, I read over questions just a bunch of times and read over my answer; I just go through it multiple times to make sure that I’ve done everything right and there hasn’t been anything that I messed up a little bit. So sometimes it does take me a bit longer to finish tests,” he explains. “But then, in training, it also helps me, too, because I don’t want to just do the number of dives we’re supposed to do and then be done; I want to do it until it’s good.”

As Matthews has aged, he’s worked to better manage his condition and not let it affect his competitions, he says.

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“It helps me, but it also kind of hinders me because if I do a bad dive in the meet, I tend to think about that more than I should, but I’ve tried to fix that and just move on to the next dive. It’s just kind of been working to control that.”

It’s clear he has been successful in that. As Matthews stood on the springboard this evening, he was able to shake off a rough preliminary result, where he squeaked into the final round with the last qualification spot, in 12th. Jumping back from the point deficit accumulated in the preliminary round (which carries over to the final), Matthews dove cleanly to finish three spots up, in ninth.

“I’m just happy with how I dove in the finals,” Matthews reflected after the competition. “I did much better than in prelims, so I’m happy I went up three spots.”

Matthews also says this experience has given him plenty of new knowledge to apply moving forward.

Mainly, he says, it’s about “the mentality I need going into the competition. I can’t focus on what I can’t control, just focus on what I can, which is to just try and do my best dives.”

He’ll have another to chance to show his best dives at the Games; he competes again on Tuesday, Oct. 16, in the men’s 10-meter platform.

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Jack Matthews