Troy Dumais chases more Olympic history as career winds down

Troy Dumais
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Troy Dumais started diving with a dream of becoming the best in the world.

He’s leaving the sport still trying to prove it.

With a new wave of daring, young competitors eager to replace him on the international stage, a nerve injury that has been causing numbness in Dumais’ right arm since early May and retirement plans already worked out, the 36-year-old diver insists he’s not ready to turn this week’s U.S. Olympic trials into a farewell tour.

“I am not done,” Dumais said following Saturday’s underwhelming performance in the prelims and semifinals of his trademark event — synchronized springboard. “I want to erase what happened and not let that happen again.”

Dumais and partner Kristian Ipsen, the Olympic bronze medalists in 2012, head into Wednesday night’s finals trailing Sam Dorman and Michael Hixon by a seemingly insurmountable 56.52 points.

Dorman and Hixon have only been working together two months, and while both have competed around the world, neither finished in the top 15 in their only other trials appearance four years ago.

Dumais and Ipsen, meanwhile, still know how to get the crowd revved and the judges’ attention.

If they can defy the odds and earn the lone spot on the U.S. team, Dumais would become the first American male diver to compete in five Olympics and the oldest to qualify for the team since at least 1912 — USA Diving does not have birth records of its teams from 1904 and 1908. He’ll get another chance Saturday in the individual springboard, where he is fourth, 110.05 points out of the second qualifying spot.

Those who know Dumais best refuse to count him out.

“When you’re his age and can still compete at his level and physically are still there, it’s really all about the mental side of it,” Olympic gold medalist David Boudia said. “There’s no one better mentally than Troy Dumais.”

Only a few American divers have a resume even approaching the achievements of this steady Californian who owns 38 national championships and made 21 consecutive national teams after making his first appearance at age 16.

In college, he won four NCAA championships in 3m springboard and 3 in 1m springboard. He also competed in eight World Championships and was named diver of the year three times and finally earned his first Olympic medal, a bronze, in 2012 with Ipsen.

Instead of retiring then as many expected, Dumais continued to dive by making more sacrifices to stay competitive.

“I’m 36 years old. All my friends are married and have kids now,” he said. “I haven’t even started that aspect because of my job, and I didn’t want to start it (a relationship) because I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it everything and it would be very sour.”

Now, it appears time may be catching up to diving’s iron man.

Dumais acknowledges qualifying has become more difficult because he focuses more on major competitions.

He said he often wakes up with his right arm in pain, completely numb. The result is that routine moments, such as walking down the board in unison, have become challenging.

“It happened and I have to deal with it,” he said, insisting he’d be 100 percent in Rio if he makes it. “I’m not blaming anybody, and I feel really bad for Kristian because we’ve worked so hard. I don’t want to let him down and I don’t want to let anybody in USA Diving down.”

Or his supportive family, who are often dressed in T-shirts touting Dumais’ drive for five.

He plans to reward them by making a family visit the first stop after his career ends. Then he wants to do something “fun” before entering chiropractor school, building a relationship and starting the next chapter of life.

Dumais just isn’t ready to start over yet.

“I still want to be the best. Sometimes I falter and sometimes I’m in that vicinity,” he said. “I have (thought about not making the Olympic team) and I don’t like those feelings. But there are a lot of people who have had to close down a business or move on and that’s hard. The thing is I have another chapter that I get to start writing and it’s not diving. It’s a career, it’s a profession.”

MORE: David Boudia: ‘Silver is like a thorn in the side’

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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