Divers Palmer, Hernandez – 11 years apart – will represent U.S. in springboard in Tokyo

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Krysta Palmer became one of the first two divers to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team on Thursday when she won the synchronized springboard competition with Alison Gibson.

On Saturday, Palmer, who turns 29 on Sunday, ensured she will also compete in the individual springboard contest in Tokyo when she topped that event. And she will be joined there by 18-year-old Hailey Hernandez.

Tokyo will be the first Olympics for both divers. Palmer will be the oldest U.S. diver to make her Olympic debut since 2004 when Kimiko Soldati competed in Athens at 30.

“This is so unreal; I’m at a loss of words right now,” Hernandez told NBC reporter Kelli Stavast. “I’m just so excited.”

DIVING TRIALS: Full Results | TV Schedule

Recent high school graduate Hernandez, who will begin her career at University of Texas this fall, won the prelims earlier in the week, but was then caught by Palmer in the semifinals. Score are cumulative through all three rounds.

Palmer maintained her lead in the final and won by a margin of 85.4 points in Indianapolis. She finished with 1011.95 points while Hernandez had 926.55.

Gibson was in second through much of the final, looking like she would join her synchro partner in the individual as well, until she allowed both Hernandez and Kristen Hayden to catch her in the fourth round.

In perhaps the most surprising result of the meet, Sarah Bacon was third, 14.45 points behind Hernandez. Hayden finished fourth and Gibson fifth.

A favorite to make the Olympic team, Bacon also missed out on the synchro Olympic berth by one spot as well, placing second with 2016 Olympian Kassidy Cook. Bacon became the first U.S. woman in 14 years to win an individual world championship medal when she took 1-meter springboard silver in 2019. Last month, she earned World Cup silver in the Olympic 3-meter event.

Palmer had the highest degree of difficulty dive list of the Olympic contenders, while Hernandez had the lowest.

Ironically, the younger Hernandez competed in her first USA Diving national championships before Palmer had even taken up the sport. Hernandez started diving at age 7, while Palmer did not try it until she was 20, following careers in both artistic gymnastics and trampoline.

“This has always been a goal of mine, and I didn’t know if it was outrageous when I started diving,” Palmer said. “It was only eight years ago, and I came in with a background of trampoline. I just wanted to pick up a sport of fun, and look what it turned into.”

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