Most amateur athletes dream of one day joining their sport’s elite in the professional ranks, but in the sport of diving, there is no such thing as going pro. From an early age, competitive divers share one dream—to represent their country in the Olympic Games.
Two Blue Devils have the opportunity to get closer to that dream this weekend as senior Abby Johnston and junior Nick McCrory compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Federal Way, Wash. Johnston and McCrory are seeking to become the first Duke divers ever to qualify for the Olympic Games. They set to compete in the final trial in events apiece, beginning Thursday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
“It’s a really exciting time for us both,” McCrory said. “Having an opportunity to make the team and go to London this summer in multiple events would be a dream come true.”
With a combined three national championships and 10 All-America honors between them, Johnston and McCrory have both beaten the nation’s best divers. With a trip to London on the line, the competition has been fierce, but so the duo has shown they are up to the challenge.
Johnston qualified for the finals in the women’s 3-meter springboard when she placed 11th out of 18 competitors with a score of 563.95. Johnston and her diving partner, Kelci Bryant, placed first in both the preliminaries and semifinal rounds of the synchronized women’s 3-meter springboard.
McCrory placed second in the 10-meter platform semifinals with 1,043.95 points, just 39.8 behind his diving partner, David Boudia. McCrory and Boudia placed first in the semifinal round of the synchronized 10-meter platform with a total score of 919.86.
Both Duke divers’ scores will carry through to the final round in all events. Johnston and Bryant currently hold a narrow lead of 6.51 points in their synchronized event, though McCrory and Boudia hold a commanding lead of 114.84.
This is not Johnston and McCrory’s first go-around at the Olympic Trials. Both competed in 2008 in an attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games in Beijing, but neither made the cut. McCrory placed fourth and in his individual event and Johnston placed 11th.
“A lot has changed since then,” McCrory said. “My diving has taken off and improved tremendously thanks to the coaching I’ve received. The biggest change has been confidence and international experience.”
Although both failed to make the 2008 Olympic team, both Johnston and McCrory have learned from the Olympic experiences of their diving partners. Johnston’s partner, Bryant, placed fourth at the Beijing Olympics in the synchronized 3-meter event and McCrory’s partner, Boudia, placed fifth in the synchronized 10-meter event and 10th in the individual 10-meter platform.
“Having partners with international experience and success makes you a better diver,” McCrory said. “David is a terrific competitor and being together all the time forces us to take our diving to the next level.”
Johnston and McCrory have dreamed of earning a trip to the Olympic Games since they started diving more than a decade ago. Both competed on the national and international diving circuits in high school before deciding to continue their careers at Duke. McCrory said he would not only be honored to represent his country, but also his university, on the world’s biggest stage.
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“It’s a great honor to be both representing the U.S. and Duke at the Olympics,” he said. “I remember seeing the Olympics on TV when I was a kid and saying, ‘I want to do that someday.’ And now it’s something that’s very much a reality.”
Johnston and McCrory will compete in the finals of their synchronized events Thursday, where only the first-place team will earn a spot in the Olympics. The top two divers from the individual women’s 3-meter springboard and men’s 10-meter platform finals will be determined Saturday and earn spots on the Olympic team.