The 2000 Olympic diving champion Laura Wilkinson was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame on Thursday.
She announced a comeback on Thursday, too.
Wilkinson, a 39-year-old mother of three, plans to compete on the platform for the first time since 2008 at a small meet near her Texas home later this month.
She’s not committing to any national-level meets yet, but if she feels up to it, can see herself diving through this Olympic cycle. And possibly at the 2020 Tokyo Games, should she be able to qualify.
“As long as my body holds up, I’d love to go for [the Olympics] again,” Wilkinson said in a phone interview Thursday. “It feels good going back up there [atop the platform] again. Like home.”
It all started in fall 2015, when Wilkinson saw her old coach, Kenny Armstrong, while taking her kids to a local pool. Armstrong suggested Wilkinson return, when her kids were in school, and join his springboard divers for training once a week.
“It started coming back really quickly,” she said. “It kind of got me thinking.”
Wilkinson worked for NBC at the Rio Olympics and in the months since started driving 90 minutes each way once or twice a week to the University of Houston to train platform. Her local pool only has springboards.
To Wilkinson’s surprise, her body handled the impact of platform dives pretty well. By Thursday, she announced her comeback on social media via a YouTube video titled, #DreamChaser.
“I don’t know that it ever really leaves you,” said Wilkinson, who is being coached by Armstrong again. “When you love something, it’s always a part of you.”
Wilkinson pulled off one of the great stories of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, jumping from eighth place over five final-round dives to become the first U.S. woman in 36 years to win platform gold.
She prevailed six months after breaking three middle bones in her right foot, banging it on a piece of plywood used for training.
The U.S. would go 12 years before winning another Olympic diving title (David Boudia, men’s platform), but Wilkinson remains the most recent female U.S. Olympic diving champion.
Wilkinson competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and won the 2005 World title in between before retiring. She then gave birth to daughter Arella and son Zadok and, with her husband, adopted another baby, Zoe, from China.
“When I retired in 2008, I felt old enough, 30, and I’d been around forever,” Wilkinson said. “My body was beat up. I wanted to have a family.”
She made a brief domestic comeback in 2010 and 2011, on springboard, and qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials but decided not to compete.
“It’s like it’s new again, but it’s not,” Wilkinson said of this comeback. “It’s comfortable.”
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