Delaney Schnell and Jessica Parratto pose during the medal ceremony for the women's synchronised 10-meter platform at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – Jessica Parratto is not a scoreboard watcher.
So, when did she realize that she and partner Delaney Schnell had a chance at the silver medal in women’s synchronized 10-meter platform at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020?
“The last dive,” Schnell said.
Rather than weakening their knees, those high stakes only strengthened their resolve. After they flipped and twisted and hit the water, they secured the first medal in this event for Team USA in Olympic history.
The American duo had been been moving up, up, up in the rankings by the time they stood atop the tower for their final dive, a back 2 ½ somersaults with 1 ½ twists from the pike position. Known as the 5253B, it has a degree of difficulty of 3.2.
Parratto and Schnell were seventh in the eight-team field after their first dive, then sixth, fourth, and finally second after four of the five dives. The Chinese were far out in front and four countries – Team USA, Japan, Mexico and Canada - were within 9 points of each other and vying for the other two medals.
“I feel like this event is always so close,” said Parratto, 27, who placed seventh at the Rio Games with former partner Amy Cozad. “There’s always that team that’s fighting to get a bronze and that’s kind of what my mindset was. But to come away with a silver is just mind-blowing.”
The teenaged team of Yuxi Chen and Jiaqi Zhang won the sixth straight gold for China – no other country has won the event since it joined the Olympic program in 2000 – by scoring 363.78 points, including the only perfect 10s of the competition. Team USA was next with 310.80 points, followed by Mexico’s Gabriela Agundez Garcia and Alejandra Orozco Loza with 299.70 points for the bronze.
While Team USA had won medals in men’s synchro platform as well as in both 3-meter synchro events, this was the only diving event in which the Americans had been shut out.
“It just goes to show that if you stay focused and you’re confident, anything can happen,” Parratto said.
That especially rings true since this was a team that came together about 10 days before the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving in early June.
Schnell, 22, had planned to dive this Olympic year with Tarrin Gilliland while Parratto was set to dive with Cozad (now Magana). However, when Gilliland had to withdraw from the Olympic Trials due to injury, Parratto made the “hard decision” to team up with Schnell. They had tried diving together in 2019, but eventually chose other partners.
Schnell said it was challenging to hear that Gilliland wasn’t doing well physically. “Obviously, I want to go into Olympic Trials with the best shot possible,” said Schnell, who will also compete individually at the Olympics in 10-meter platform. “When Tarrin eventually dropped out, Jess and I just ended up making it work. It really just took a faith in each other and a lot of trust in each other and I think that’s really how this paid off.”
They could very well be the team with the fewest amount of dives together in competition to win an Olympic medal.
But it wasn’t going well after their first two dives of the day at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, the easy back dive pike and reverse dive pike. They scored mostly in the 7.0-8.0 range, but most of the other teams were better and they ranked seventh on each.
“That kind of lit my fire under me,” Parratto said.
They then scored more than 70 points apiece on their forward 3 ½ somersaults pike and inward 3 ½ somersaults tuck.
Every team in the competition closed with the 5253B. First Canada scored 75.84 points. Then Team USA totaled 78.72 points. Mexico was well back at 71.04 points and Japan had a poor attempt, scoring only 61.44 as Team USA clinched the silver.
China had mostly 9.0s to score 84.48 points.
“I knew that we could do really good optionals,” Parratto said, “so I wasn’t concerned about it, and I think I just kind of tried to keep going, dive by dive, not letting anything else affect me that was in the past.”
Schnell said that she tried not to have expectations in her first Olympic Games other than enjoying every moment.
“I went into this event very confident,” she said. “The nerves weren’t really there. And I was like, ‘I have a really good feeling about this’ and Jess did, too. We woke up and we felt really good and it just happened.”
Parratto said she had never woken up for a meet feeling so calm and ready to go. “That was a good sign to me, just knowing that I felt as confident as I did that we knew we could hit our dives,” she said.
Since synchro joined the Olympic program, USA Diving has worked on finding the right pairings. Only eight teams qualify for the event.
“I think we put a lot of emphasis on synchro because it’s not necessarily easy to medal in, but it is almost your best shot because it’s eight teams,” Parratto said.
Although there are no spectators due to COVID-19 protocols, the other U.S. divers and staff made a lot of noise for their teammates.
“It makes a difference from it being silent,” Schnell said. “It’s kind of that validation that the dive was solid, because when you come up you hear them.”
“It does make a world of difference,” added Parratto, “and we know that Team USA always cheers super loud and are super obnoxious and we love that, so we couldn’t ask for more.”
It was also a special day for Parratto’s father, Mike, who coaches Regan Smith, who won the Olympic bronze medal in the women’s 100-meter backstroke earlier in the day.
“This is something I’ve dreamed on so long,” Parratto said, “I can’t believe it’s really happening."
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.