Brandon Loschiavo and Jordan Windle celebrate qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in the men's 10-meter platform at U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Diving on June 12, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
INDIANAPOLIS - Krysta Palmer was learning to dive the same year Jordan Windle was competing in his first U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving.
Here’s a twist: It was 2012 and Palmer was 20 while Windle was 13.
Brandon Loschiavo missed the 2016 Trials because he was recovering from a broken wrist, and a few months later Hailey Hernandez won her first senior national competition at age 13.
Four athletes, four journeys, one common outcome: On Saturday, they each earned the right to compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Palmer, who won on the eve of her 29th birthday, never had to look over her shoulder Saturday while winning the women’s 3-meter springboard competition and qualifying for Team USA in her second event. Two days earlier she also made the team in synchronized 3-meter with Alison Gibson.
“This has always been a goal of mine,” said Palmer, who defeated Hernandez by 85.40 points. “I didn’t know if it was outrageous when I started diving.”
Loschiavo, 24, was solid on the 10-meter platform until his final dive, missing his forward 4 ½ somersault tuck to score the lowest points of the sixth round. However, he had already accumulated enough points to prevail. He scored 1,421 points, while Windle, who garnered 96.00 points by scoring five 10s on his first dive, finished with 1,401.40.
“It’s been a super-long journey getting to this point, with the ups and downs of injuries,” Loschiavo said. “I can speak for both of us - we’ve kind of been beat up here and there. I’m just honored and I can’t wait to represent our country as well as I can.”
Windle, 22, was born in Cambodia and adopted by his father, Jerry, when he was 18 months old. He was fourth at the Olympic Trials in 2016 after placing sixth in synchronized platform with Zach Cooper in 2012.
“The first time was more just gaining experience and just trying to soak it all in,” Windle said, noting that in 2016, “I worked really hard, but at the time everyone was at their peak and it was incredible to dive with everyone. It just wasn’t my day. The past trials definitely helped me get ready mentally and physically to prepare for what was to come and it worked out in the end.”
David Dinsmore had the misfortune to finish in third place for his second straight Olympic Trials with 1,278.50 points while 14-year-old Joshua Hedberg, who was competing at 10 meters for the first time after previously diving from the 7-meter tower, was fourth at 1,235.70.
Palmer, who was formerly a gymnast as well as a national champion on trampoline, began diving when she got to college at Nevada. “I wanted to pick up a sport for fun,” she said, “and look what it turned into.”
Palmer had enough points to win even before climbing the steps for her final dive. Nevertheless, she uncorked her signature 5154B dive – 2 ½ somersaults with 2 twists – to finish with 1,011.95 points. No other U.S. female diver does that dive – choosing instead to do one twist rather than two.
“That’s an Olympic medal dive,” said NBC commentator Cynthia Potter, an Olympic bronze medalist in 1976 on 3-meter springboard.
Hernandez battled three other divers in a tight contest for second, displaying consistency to make up for a lower degree of difficulty on four of her dives compared to those of her rivals.
“It’s just crazy unreal,” said Hernandez, 18, whose older brother Nathaniel also competed in the Trials in men’s 3-meter. “I’m just so happy to be diving, knowing I still have a long way to go, and that these people are amazing people and maybe I’ll be back in four years.”
The four-time Texas state champion earned 926.55 points to hold off Sarah Bacon, the pre-Trials favorite, who pulled up from fifth to third with 912.10 points, Kristen Hayden (908.85) and Gibson (903.40). Gibson flirted with second place for three rounds, but missed her fourth dive and fell back.
Only 18.95 points separated second from fifth after the fourth of five rounds. Points were cumulative through preliminaries, semifinals and finals with five dives in each session.
“At the end I definitely looked at the scoreboard, knowing this is what I need for my last dive,” said Hernandez, who was in the lead after the preliminaries. “but I was just trying to stay relaxed and confident and just go out there and nail my dives.”
Palmer is the oldest diver to qualify for Team USA since Kimiko Soldati was 30 in 2004.
But while Soldati was only four years older than Rachelle Kunkel, her 3-meter teammate in Athens, Palmer is almost 11 years older than Hernandez.
“You can call me old if you want,” Palmer told Hernandez, “I won’t be hurt.”
They have been teammates before at a 2018 World Cup in Wuhan, China.
“I was just blown away and inspired that just such a young girl can have such great experience,” Palmer said. “She is an unbelievable girl to me and I think she deserves it.”
On men’s platform, Loschiavo came in with a lead of 50.50 points over Windle, while Dinsmore needed almost 79 points to move into second.
Then Windle was almost perfect on his opener, an inward 3 ½ somersault tuck to trail his good friend Loschiavo by only 36.10 points. Loschiavo scored 9.0s across the board on his reverse 3 ½ somersault tuck for 91.80 points on his fourth dive.
He needed only 24.80 points on his final dive to win, and got 44.40. That was good enough to follow fellow Purdue Boilermakers David Boudia and Steele Johnson as Olympic 10-meter platform divers.
In 2016, when Boudia and Johnson went 1-2 at the Trials, Loschiavo was left high and dry after a broken wrist the year before.
While competing in synchro with David Dinsmore at trials for a world cup, he broke his scaphoid bone in his left wrist on a front 3 ½ pike.
“It was the last dive in the prelim, and it just gave out on me,” Loschiavo said. “From there I was given the choice - to dive with the pain, which was excruciating, or just get surgery now.”
One option was to put a screw through the scaphoid and the other option was to dive through it, make his wrist significantly worse and then take a bone from his hip to help heal his wrist.
“I picked the first decision, just because I was already out for that point for quite a bit,” Loschiavo said. “Mentally and physically I was pretty destroyed. The best option for me was getting the screw in my wrist, then it took me a year and a half to recover from that.”
Five years later, he and Windle had one more thing to do at the Trials. Both Dragon Ball Z fans, they planned to demonstrate the “fusion” for a photo to commemorate the moment.
“We have this tradition, when we first met and started going to meets together,” said Loschiavo, “where we would always do this funny little pose.”
Where will they do it? “Hopefully the 10-meter platform,” he said, “or we’ll do it everywhere.”
Palmer also had some unfinished business.
“I really want to take those scooters around Indy,” she said of the ubiquitous electric scooters around downtown. “I think that sounds like so much fun and I haven’t gotten to do that just to play it safe. I’m looking forward to doing that tomorrow.”
Now that she’s an Olympian, wouldn’t that be a no-no?
“Yeah,” she said with a smile, “Don’t tell anybody.”