Who to watch presented by DeVry is a series that includes a run-down on the front runners, dark horses, unexpected athletes and top storylines to watch during Trials.
U.S. divers will plunge into action at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving, which will be held June 6-13 at the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis. The 2016 trials were held at the same venue.
Team USA earned 11 of the maximum 12 quota spots for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the same as 2016. The first seven quota spots were secured at the 2019 FINA World Championships while the final four came last month at the World Cup in Tokyo. China is the only country with the maximum of 12 quota spots.
A total of 100 divers will compete in the trials. In the individual events – men’s and women’s 3-meter springboard and men’s and women’s 10-meter platform – the top two finishers will qualify for Team USA.
Only the winning team will qualify for the Olympics in men’s and women’s 3-meter synchronized springboard and women’s 10-meter synchronized platform. Unfortunately, the United States will not have an Olympic entrant in men’s 10-meter synchronized platform, an event in which Team USA won the silver medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Each event has both preliminaries and semifinals on one day, and then the final four days later.
Here are some of the divers to watch and storylines to keep an eye on at this weekend’s trials.
A New Challenge
David Boudia, the most decorated U.S. diver of the last decade, is trying for his fourth Olympic team. This time, however, the 32-year-old is competing in different events. Boudia won four Olympic medals from the 10-meter tower, including the individual gold medal in 2012 and the individual bronze in 2016. He also teamed up with Nick McCrory to win the bronze in 10-meter synchronized platform in 2012 and partnered with Steele Johnson for the silver in that event in 2016.
In 2018, after an 18-month retirement, Boudia revealed that he would be making a comeback by competing on 3-meter springboard, an event in which he won three of his six NCAA titles for Purdue. The father of three would be the first U.S. diver to compete on both platform and springboard over an Olympic career since Mark Ruiz in 2000.
Johnson, 24, also switched events and will join Boudia in 3-meter synchro. Both will be contenders in the individual event but Boudia, who was fifth in the 2019 world championships, feels synchro is his best chance for a medal in Tokyo.
Boudia and Johnson won’t just bounce onto the Olympic team without any resistance. The final figures to be a showdown between Boudia and Johnson and the team of Mike Hixon and Andrew Capobianco. Hixon, 26, won the silver medal in 3-meter synchro in Rio when he was paired with Sam Dorman, who has since retired and is an agent for pro divers. While Boudia and Johnson were recovering from Covid-19, Hixon and Capobianco went to the World Cup in Tokyo and secured the quota spot for Team USA by placing fourth.
Boudia and Johnson have been diving together for years while Hixon and Capobianco teamed up in 2017. They sometimes have trouble matching their steps before they take off and have been working to get their approach lined up.
Hixon and Capobianco are also among the top candidates for the two individual 3-meter springboard berths among 39 entries – the highest number at this year’s trials. Hixon was a 2016 Olympian in the event, placing 10th and was 7th at the 2019 world championships. Capobianco, 21, is the newly-minted NCAA champion in 3-meter, which he won for Indiana.
Splash From the Past
Look for Laura Wilkinson in 10-meter platform. Yes, that Laura Wilkinson. In 2000, she became the first U.S. woman to win the gold medal in 10-meter platform since 1964 following a spectacular eighth-to-first performance. Wilkinson was fifth in 2004 and ninth in 2008 and subsequently retired. She came out of retirement in 2017 – the same year she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame – and finished second at nationals. Now 43 years old and a mother of four, Wilkinson has the experience, but can she defeat divers half her age?
The Next Laura Wilkinson?
In 2019, Delaney Schnell took bronze at the world championships to become the first Team USA female diver to win a world medal in the individual 10-meter platform event since Laura Wilkinson in 2000. Schnell, 22, who was a gymnast before becoming a diver, was sixth at the 2016 trials and second in the synchro event, just missing the Rio team.
She will double her chances of making Team USA in synchro by competing with two different partners: Jessica Parratto and Tarrin Gilliland. Parratto is also doing double duty. At the Rio Games, Parratto finished seventh on 10-meter platform with Amy Cozad. The two will be paired up again with Cozad now diving under her married name, Magana. After a break, they resumed diving together in 2019.
However, they’ll have their work cut out for them against the pair with the most recent success: Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young, who won the bronze medal at the 2019 worlds.
The individual 10-meter platform event will be highly contested with Schnell facing stiff competition from Gilliland, 18, who just won the NCAA title for Indiana; Bromberg, 25, the 2017 NCAA champion; Parratto, 26, who was 10th in Rio, Young, 29, who placed 13th at the 2016 Games, and Magana, 30, who was 11th at the 2019 worlds.
The Big Question
In both women’s 3-meter springboard events, all eyes will be on Kassidy Cook’s injured shoulder. Hampered by the injury for months, Cook gritted her teeth and placed fifth with Sarah Bacon in the Tokyo test event to secure the Olympic quota spot. If Cook’s shoulder holds up the duo will be favored in 3-meter synchro. If not, Alison Gibson and Krysta Palmer are also a strong pair, finishing 10th at the 2019 world championships.
In the individual event, Cook, 26, is a 2016 Olympian in 3-meter placing 13th in the semifinals, one spot away from advancing to the final, and hopes to qualify again. Her parter, Bacon, 24, is having a sensational season. She placed second at the World Cup in Tokyo, which was the test event for the Olympic Games. Only China’s Yiwen Chen defeated her, and Bacon finished ahead of the other Chinese diver. Her medal marked the first time a female Team USA diver has medaled in 3-meter springboard at a world cup since Kelly McCormick won a bronze medal in 1989. Bacon is also the newly crowned NCAA champion in both 3-meter and 1-meter, which is not an Olympic event.
Jordan Windle is a contender on both springboard and platform. Windle, 22, was born in Cambodia and his father, Jerry, adopted him when he was 18 months old. Tim O’Brien, son of famed coach Ron O’Brien, spotted 7-year-old Windle at a camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“He saw something in me that reminded him of Greg Louganis,” Windle said. “I was called Little Louganis after that.”
Windle, who competed for Texas under coach and 1992 Olympian Matt Scoggin, is the 2019 NCAA platform champion and holds the NCAA scoring record in both springboard and platform. As a senior, Windle was second on 3-meter springboard at the 2021 NCAA Championships and fourth on platform after losing an early lead. He also won 1-meter, which is not an Olympic event. He was the NCAA platform champ in 2019.
Brandon Loschiavo 23, is the newly-crowned NCAA 10-meter platform champion for Purdue and was eighth at worlds while David Dinsmore finished 12th at worlds.
When Cook had to withdraw from the individual 3-meter event at the world cup in Tokyo, Samantha Pickens, 29, stepped in and placed 12th, securing the second U.S. quota spot. Brooke Schultz, the 2019 national champion in 3-meter springboard, is also in the hunt for a Tokyo berth.
In men’s 3-meter, Briadam Herrera placed seventh in Tokyo while Zachary Cooper came off a third-place finish at the NCAA championships to place 12th in the test event on 10-meter.
One of the most famous divers in the competition is Tyler Downs, 17, who will compete on both springboard and platform. While he is more of a candidate for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, Downs has made a name for himself as a TikTok star with videos of diving and dancing. He has more than 500,000 followers and 15.4 million likes.