Krysta Palmer poses during the medal ceremony for the women's 3-meter springboard final on Aug. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – The drought is over.
Krysta Palmer cemented her place in diving history after winning a bronze medal in the women’s individual 3-meter springboard, becoming the first American woman to win a medal in the event in 33 years.
The last time Team USA had a woman on the 3-meter springboard podium was Kelly McCormick at the Olympic Games Seoul 1988, where she won bronze.
“Wow,” said Palmer when she found out the news. “You know we have really strong springboard divers in the USA right now, and if it wasn’t me, it could’ve been one of them. So carrying that level to the international stage has been exciting…it’s exciting to just make a little more history.”
Tonight, Palmer’s consistency and ability to stay focused won her the bronze medal. But she also doesn’t shy away from a challenge.
“I think adding my 5154 (forward 2½ somersaults, 2 twists in the pike position), my last dive with high difficulty, that really helps me gain a little bit of the edge,” said Palmer. “That’s my favorite dive.”
Whether she had won a medal or not, there’s no doubt Palmer would have been walking away with a smile.
“I’m just proud of my list today, and I knew that if I came away with a medal or if I didn’t, I would still be proud of myself for how I handled the nerves.”
And it was no surprise to see Shi Tingmao of China atop the podium. She’s been dominating the springboard diving world over the past decade. And she did not disappoint today, finishing an incredible 34.75 points ahead of the competition.
“These divers I look up to so much,” said Palmer of the competition. “I’m proud of them. They’re so consistent. They have a lot of pressure, and I think they handle it really well. They’re great competitors to train alongside and compete alongside.”
Shi won the women’s 3-meter synchronized gold just days earlier with partner Wang Han, who finished with the silver medal in today’s individual event. Shi scored a whopping 383.5 points, and Wang with a final score of 348.75.
A former gymnast and trampoline athlete, Palmer turned to diving after injuries threatened to end her athletic career.
“There was a moment in time when I thought my athletic career was over,” said Palmer. “Sometime after that, I met my coach and she said, ‘Come into my club team, just have fun.’ And so that’s really how my journey began.”
Palmer’s coach Jian Li You is the head coach at the University of Nevada Reno and a former Chinese diver. Considered one of top coaches in the U.S., You has mentored past Olympic divers such as Becky Ruehl, Mary Ellen Clark, Scott Donie and Dave Pichler.
“She really took a lot of my trampoline background that I had and transformed me into the diver I am today.”
When Palmer realized she was going to medal, You was the first person she turned to.
“I think the moment I realized I ran over to my coach, and I was like I have to be next to her,” said Palmer. “I have to give her a big hug because I did not do this alone. I did it with her, and with all her help, too.”
Also making her mark on the diving world is Hailey Hernandez.
At just 18 years old, Hernandez is the youngest female American diver in Tokyo and the youngest in the women’s 3-meter springboard final. But you would never be able to tell watching her dive.
On the springboard, Hernandez looks like a seasoned vet. Even while competing on the world’s biggest stage, she is calm, cool and collected.
“Going into the meets, I’m just trying to have as much fun as possible,” said Hernandez.
And consistency is the name of Hernandez’s game. She did not faulter on any of her final dives, but the competition was stiff. Hernandez finished ninth with a final score of 288.45.
“I know that going out there I just want to do the best list for me,” said Hernandez. “If I do that, then I know I’ll come out successful and happy. So, I try not to not really worry about what everyone else is doing.”
Although Hernandez is going home without a medal, she’s not going home empty-handed. This Games provided her with great learning experience on the international stage.
“I’ve learned so much, got so much experience and grown as an athlete,” said Hernandez. “Being able to come out here and compete on the Olympic stage, against the best divers in the world, has just been incredible.”
Hernandez has a busy few weeks ahead as she prepares to start her freshman year of college at the University of Texas at Austin where she will continue her diving career.
“Hailey is young, and she’s got some special talent that kid,” said Palmer. “I’m just proud of how she handled herself through it all. She’s mature, and I think when it comes to these international competitions it’s amazing to see how mature she is competitively and as a young girl.”
At 29, Palmer says she isn’t sure what the future holds right now.
“I feel like I’ve got to soak this in, then go home and make a decision,” said Palmer. “I really don’t feel that I’m at my peak, and I have always told myself I’ll stop when I reach my peak or I stop having fun, and none of those have really come to end. So, you might see me sticking it out for a little bit.”
Men’s 3-meter springboard competition begins tomorrow where Andrew Capobianco will attempt to earn his second medal of the Tokyo Games and U.S. Olympic Trials winner Tyler Downs will make his Olympic debut.