Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network)-
For the second straight Summer Olympics, there will be eight diving events when the Games kick off in Athens on August 12. The men's and women's 10-meter platform and three-meter springboard events will again be accompanied by synchronized versions after a successful trial run in Sydney in 2000.
Eight pairs of divers and nine judges will watch the competition, and just like the other four events, the synchronized dives will be judged on a 0-10 scale with the highest and lowest scores among the seven judges dropped. The remaining scores are added together and multiplied by a degree of difficulty between 1.2 and 3.6 before being multiplied again by six.
Americans have traditionally dominated diving at the Olympics, winning more than half of the total medals awarded, but in 2000 they won just a single medal.
Laura Wilkinson is back after taking home a gold medal in the women's 10-meter platform at Sydney. She won the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, adding to a string of wins that includes the 2004 FINA Diving World Cup and back-to-back Speedo National Diving Championships in 2002 and 2003.
|Laura Wilkinson is back after taking home a gold medal in the women's 10-meter platform at Sydney.|
Competing with Wilkinson in the women's 10-meter platform will be Sara Hildebrand, who placed 13th in the event at the 2000 Games under her maiden name of Reiling. Hildebrand will also dive in the women's synchro 10-meter platform event with partner and fellow Indiana University graduate Cassandra Cardinell, who will be making her first trip to the Olympics.
"I feel like we are doing this together and this is really new territory for both of us," Hildebrand said. "Synchro is very different than individuals, and I don't have any more experience than her. I don't want to feel like the leader of this team -- we have to work together again and figure it out."
Hildebrand and Cardinell beat Wilkinson and Kimiko Soldati to win the synchro platform, but Soldati will still make the trip to Athens to compete in the women's three-meter springboard.
Soldati, also an Indiana University alum, was forced to miss the 2000 Olympic Trials and other national championships because of injuries. Rachelle Kunkel finished second behind Soldati in the springboard to earn a trip to her first Olympics as well.
Brothers Troy and Justin Dumais won the men's synchro springboard to earn a trip to Athens. Troy, who holds the record for most junior national titles with 19, competed in Sydney and placed fourth in the three-meter synchro and sixth in the individual springboard. Justin will be making his first trip to the Olympics after 13 National Championships. The brothers have won seven national competitions in a row, and could have scored zero points on their final dive at the Trials and still finished in first place by almost one point.
"When we're on, it's an awesome experience," Justin said after the Trials. "I love the crowd. I eat it up."
That enthusiasm might just bring the Dumais brothers a medal, but is there anything Troy can say to better prepare his brother for the Olympic experience?
"There's nothing I can tell him that's going to help," Troy said. "Everybody waits for it -- but it's the same competition as nationals or any event. There's a big hype to it, but you just have to get past it and take care of your dives."
The other U.S. synchro tandem traveling to Athens is Kyle Prandi and Mark Ruiz, who will compete in the 10-meter platform event. Making his first Olympic appearance, Prandi will also compete in the men's individual platform. Ruiz made his second straight Olympic team after placing sixth in platform and seventh on the springboard in Sydney in 2000.
Rounding out the U.S. team are Caesar Garcia and Justin Wilcock, who will both compete in individual events in Athens. Garcia dominated the men's 10-meter finals at this year's Trials earning a spot on his first Olympic team after finishing in last place at the 2000 Trials. Wilcock finished in second place behind Troy Dumais in the three-meter competition at the Trials to earn his spot on the team.
The Canadians have several good chances for a medal in Greece. On the men's side, world-No. 1 Alexandre Despatie set a Canadian record in the three-meter springboard at the team trials in June.
"I made hardly any errors, and it was one of my best showings no doubt," said Despatie, 18, who also won the 10-meter platform competition, an event in which he finished fourth at the 2000 Games.
Joining Despatie on the men's team will be Philippe Comtois, who also enjoyed one of his best performances in finishing second at the Canadian Trials. He made the 1996 Olympic team, but a serious leg injury in 2000 kept him out of Sydney and nearly ended his career. Christopher Kalec will also dive for the men's team.
On the women's side, Emilie Heymans will compete in both individual events. She is the world champion in the platform. Joining her on the women's team are Myriam Boileau and Blythe Hartley.
The U.S. has struggled to maintain its stranglehold on diving domination at the Olympics, losing ground to the Chinese over the last two Games.
China won three of the four gold medals awarded in Atlanta in 1996, and nearly swept the Sydney Games. The Chinese have taken every gold medal in women's springboard since 1988, and had won every gold in women's platform since 1984 until Wilkinson halted that streak with her performance in 2000.
By Gerard Gallagher, Olympic Contributing Editor