Troy Dumais
Getty Images

Troy Dumais chases more Olympic history as career winds down

Leave a comment

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’

Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

Nathan Chen
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

Karolina Pliskova
Getty Images
Leave a comment

No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!