The last full week of April was supposed to provide clarity for the Olympic diving competition. The FINA World Cup, the last Olympic qualifier, was scheduled to take place at the Olympic host city of Tokyo.
Instead, we’re left with unfinished business. The last Olympic quota spots have yet to be doled out. The U.S. Olympic Trials, originally set for June in Indianapolis, are postponed indefinitely. China’s bid to sweep all of the Olympic diving golds for the first time — denied until 2021.
“This year delay could look a lot better for a lot of the challengers than possibly some of the reigning Chinese,” NBC Olympics analyst Cynthia Potter said. “I just wonder about the veterans from China. [Some of them] have injuries, too. Some of them are worn out.
“I think there are a lot of those people returning [from China] that were maybe looking forward either to not diving the event that they were diving at the Olympics after this summer or retiring altogether.”
Now they all get an extra 12 months. For U.S. divers, it could be a boon once they are able to return to normal training.
It’s more time for David Boudia, the four-time Olympic medalist, to hone his transition from the platform to the springboard. More time for Steele Johnson, who missed nearly a year of competition with two foot surgeries, to decide whether to compete on the platform, springboard or both. More time for synchronized teams to get in sync.
Potter went through where things stand for U.S. Olympic spots in each of the four disciplines:
Men’s Springboard — U.S. qualified two Olympic spots
Boudia won the 2019 U.S. title and placed fifth at the world championships in his first full year after moving off the platform. It was the best finish for the U.S. men’s program at worlds.
“If David’s timing, his strength, his rhythm, all that and that he feels pretty good enough to do these more difficult dives, I don’t see that anybody can beat him if that all comes together,” Potter said.
Michael Hixon is the most experienced U.S. springboard diver on the top level, having placed 10th at the Rio Olympics while making the last three world championships teams. Right in the mix with Boudia and Hixon is Andrew Copabianco, a 20-year-old NCAA champion from Indiana who trains with Hixon. Wild cards: Briadam Herrera, a 1m springboard world team member known for his difficulty, and Johnson, should he enter.
Men’s Platform — U.S. qualified two Olympic spots
David Dinsmore appears the likeliest U.S. Olympic rookie in 2021. Since taking third at the 2016 Olympic Trials, Dinsmore has four wins and a runner-up in national-level meets. His sixth-place finish at the 2017 Worlds was the best individual result for a U.S. man at the meet.
“I think international judges like his diving,” Potter said. “He doesn’t have a lot of real obvious flaws.”
Johnson, a Rio Olympian on the platform, returned from injury to place third and fourth at national championships last year. He has the versatility to enter all four events at trials, but he may prioritize the springboard given the medal potential in the synchro event with Boudia. Other hopefuls: Brandon Loschiavo, who outscored Dinsmore in the finals at 2019 Nationals, and Jordan Windle, who Potter said has been on fire since overcoming an injury.
Women’s Springboard — U.S. yet to qualify any Olympic spots
If the U.S. qualifies Olympic spots, look out for Kassidy Cook. Cook, after missing the Rio Olympic final by one spot, did not compete individually on the national level until last December’s Winter Nationals. She won it to earn a spot on the team for the World Cup, where she was to crucially compete to earn the U.S. an Olympic quota spot.
Potter also likes Cook’s synchro partner, Sarah Bacon, who last year became the first U.S. woman to earn an individual Olympic or world medal since 2005. Bacon, overcoming two shoulder surgeries, a concussion, stress fractures in her back and mental struggles, took silver in the non-Olympic 1m springboard event at worlds.
Also worth noting: Brooke Schultz, who made the last two world championships teams and was third at 2019 Winter Nationals. And Krysta Palmer, a 27-year-old who didn’t start diving until she was 20.
Women’s Platform — U.S qualified two Olympic spots
Potter said the event is deeper domestically than it has been in a long time. All three Rio Olympians — Jessica Parratto, Katrina Young and Amy Cozad Magaña (synchro with Parratto in Rio)– are still competing.
The frontrunner has to be Delaney Schnell, who last year became the first U.S. woman to earn an individual world platform medal since 2005 (a bronze). There’s also Tarrin Gilliland, coming back from injury after competing in synchro at the 2017 World Championships at age 14. And Murphy Bromberg, the 2019 Winter Nationals champion who was third at the most recent Olympic and world championships trials.
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