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US medal comes down to final dive
The American synchronized divers stood on the platform 10 meters above the pool, ready for the last of their six dives in the men’s synchronized diving finals. It all came down to this, and David Boudia and Nicholas McCrory bumped fists: Go time.
With two leaps into the air and a twisting plummet back to water, they could end America’s 16-year medal drought in men’s diving. With a flawless execution of one of their highest-difficulty dives, a back 2-1/2 somersault with 2-1/2 twists in the pike position, they could hold onto bronze, with the Brits hot on their tails.
All that pressure, and in a sport that values two relaxed bodies spinning in unison. The talented British tandem of Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield had flubbed their fourth dive and catapulted the Americans into third place. Boudia and McCrory knew they easily could do the same thing: One splash a bit bigger than it should be, one movement that wasn’t done in perfect unison, and they’d be off the podium. That sort of stuff? It gets into your head.
“It’s almost harder to continue hitting dives when another team opens the door,” the 20-year-old McCrory said afterward, “because then you know, ‘Wow, I can medal. I can do this.’ ”
They stood next to each other on the platform.
“Ready?” Boudia said.
“Yep,” McCrory replied.
They got to the edge of the podium and turned around.
Their bodies reached skyward.
“One, two, three, go.”
They jumped. Then they twisted and spun as they plummeted, then reached toward the water, their bodies mirroring each other and barely registering a splash. A near-flawless dive, one of the highest-scoring of the competition.
When the two lifted themselves out of the pool and saw the score, McCrory pumped his fist. The teammates hugged. They retreated to the locker room to watch the final British dive on television, knowing the Brits would need a perfect dive to leap over the Americans, but knowing that, yes, it was still possible that they could still leave empty-handed, because the Brits had achieved that perfect dive before and they could do it again.
“That was the longest 10 seconds ever, just waiting for the scores for the British to come up,” McCrory said afterward. “More stressful than we were up there diving ourselves. It was intense. It was hard to watch that and have that uncertainty.”
But when the British team dove and came up short — a good dive, not a perfect one — there it was: The American medal drought was broken, the hard work of years and years of diving had paid off, and they were assured to head home with a big hunk of metal hanging around their necks. The medal ceremony, the fawning interviews, the questions about Boudia’s old fear of heights or his newfound Christianity, it all showed the difference between an Olympian and an Olympic medalist.
An Olympian is someone who competed among the best of the world. It’s an impressive feat, one that few of us could ever reach. An Olympic medalist, though, is an achievement of another order, tangible evidence that for one moment when all the pressure was on your shoulders, you were one the best in the world.
“Everyone in that competition had the potential to medal,” McCrory said. “Everyone can do their dives. What it comes down to is who performs in the moment. What David and I did was exactly that. We relaxed, and we stayed loose, and we just did what we knew we could.”
Boudia and McCrory couldn’t wait to go meet up with their families, who had watched from the stands. But their Olympics weren’t over. The men’s individual platform event will be on Aug. 11. Drew Johansen, one of the two US diving coaches, tugged on McCrory’s hefty medal.
“Don’t hurt your neck,” he said. “You still have to dive.”
You can follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @reidforgrave, become a fan on Facebook or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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