As Olivia Rosendahl recounted her World Championships experience at the United States Aquatics Sports banquet in conjunction with USA Diving’s annual meeting in St. Louis, she closed with the following:
“Representing our country, having a blast, meeting new athletes, it was an amazing experience. That’s what we’re here for. This sport, this community. I’m proud to represent USA Diving athletes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this next year holds for all of us,” Rosendahl said.
This next year will be a busy yet exciting one for USA Diving, and the 2019 convention was a great way to kick off the next 12 months. Athlete representatives provided inspiration. Committee meetings sparked discussion. Education sessions provided valuable information for coaches to take back to their clubs. New leadership was put in place.
Dave Gascon was elected as USA Diving’s new Chair of the Board as he and three other independent directors joined the Board of Directors after bylaw changes were adopted to meet USOPC requirements.
Alison Alfers, Peter Ban and Preston McAfee will join Gascon as independent directors on the board. Alfers and McAfee will serve through 2022, and Gascon and Ban will serve through 2024.
Gascon indicated he was very happy to be joining the Board with the other Independent Members.
“I am elated to be joining USA Diving at this critical moment in time especially with Alison Alfers, Preston McAfee, and Peter Ban. Alison and Peter are lawyers and Preston is a PhD in economics. They are all distinguished professionals in their fields and all obviously exceptionally smart people who are committed to helping the Board guide USA Diving. We are delighted to be joining the existing members of the Board who have decades of diving expertise,” said Gascon, who was Assistant Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department before retiring in 2002 after 31 years on the force.
McAfee has served as a chief economist with Microsoft and has also worked for Yahoo! and Google. Ban has worked for companies such as iHeart Media, HBO and Time Warner. Alfers has served as general counsel and chief legal officer for several organizations, most recently joining Cherwell Software after previously working at HawkEye 360.
Gascon said he has great sensitivity to the interests of athletes as his daughter Sarah is an athlete representative and captain of the USA Team Handball Women’s National Team.
“I believe we need to be committed to our athletes, listen to them, and ensure they have a seat at the table as we collectively deal with their concerns. We need to do all we can to enhance their development in their quest to become the best of which they are capable. If that sounds John Wooden like, it’s because it is. That’s how we achieve competitive greatness. We want our athletes to be at their best when their best is needed. However, that philosophy also applies to each of us, especially coaches,” Gascon said.
USA Diving’s best was needed at this summer’s World Championships, the first opportunity for countries to qualify their 2020 Olympic spots. The U.S. athletes came through with one of their most successful World Championships in recent years. Rosendahl told USAS banquet attendees that she was very nervous and intimidated by the atmosphere at her first World Championships. Previous international experience didn’t prepare her for what it would be like to stand on the platform next to an Olympic medalist she’d idolized for years or to sit in a waiting room for 20 minutes before being allowed to dive. She said the support the U.S. team members had for each other contributed to everyone’s success, including her own.
“My team was there for me and they were super supportive. I got fifth, and I’m really proud of that. Being a part of that team, watching us do better than we’ve done in years. Coming away with four medals, most of which were won by female athletes. Coming away with seven out of a possible 12 Olympic spots when at the 2015 World Championships, we came away with two. Being a part of that team that stood on the sidelines and cheered at every single event and every awards ceremony. It was amazing,” Rosendahl recalled at the banquet.
Although Gascon joins the board as an independent director, he has followed the sport closely and is very aware of the success the U.S. has had in the sport.
“I am someone who is a huge supporter of the U.S. Olympic movement and have fond memories of watching America’s best take on the world in diving. I was fortunate to spend time with the great Micki King this past weekend at the USAS convention. I told Micki I can vividly remember her winning the Gold Medal in the 1972 Munich Olympics. USA Diving has a fantastic legacy of success and I hope we recapture our rightful position as the gold standard for diving.”
USA Diving’s success in South Korea this summer is another step in that direction.
In addition to the four new independent directors, a Masters Diving Representative was added to the Board of Directors. Gerry Dunn will fill that seat. Previous chair Michele Mitchell will remain on the board as immediate past chair in a non-voting role.
Gascon expressed his appreciation for the efforts of his predecessor.
“I am grateful to outgoing Chair Michelle Mitchell for her incredible commitment to the athletes, coaches, and membership of USA Diving. I hope to continue with my partners on the Board to provide proper guidance and support as we head down the homestretch toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, as well as plan for the significant challenges leading to future World Championships and the Olympic Games of Paris and Los Angeles,” Gascon said.