WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
June 21, 2012
Miami Diving’s Brittany Viola, brimming with confidence from the opening round, is two steps closer to making her first Olympic team.
Viola, 25, a University of Miami alum took a commanding lead after prelims and semifinals of the women’s 10-meter platform Wednesday night to advance into Sunday’s final of the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash.
In front of a nationally-televised audience, Viola opened with a 10 on her opening dives in both prelims and semis and remained in the lead despite Katie Bell and 2008 Olympian Hailey Ishimatsu trying to close the gap during the five-round semifinals.
“I am just enjoying this experience, every dive is a joy,” Viola said. “I just trusted my body and my strength. I want to enjoy every moment of this opportunity in Sunday’s finals.”
Viola finished with 734.30 points followed by Bell with 703.75 and Ishimatsu, who moved up from seventh after prelims to third with 674.05 points.
Florida State’s Katrina Young also made the final cut of 12 divers placing tenth with 589.10. Young is coach by former Fort Lauderdale diver and Olympian Patrick Jeffrey.
With Viola looking like a lock for the team, the battle will come down to the second berth for the London Olympics.
Viola, 25, the daughter of 1987 World Series MVP Frank Viola, is competing in her third trials. She finished fourth in the 2008 trials. At the 2004 trials at age 17 she finished second but the selection committee chose another diver.
“There’s been a lot of lessons, a lot of them have been very challenging,” Viola said. “My body feels very good. I’m so thankful. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”
In prelims, Viola led after the opening round with 380.55 points. She wasted no time as establishing herself as the leader among a field of 32 divers by scoring a 10 on her first dive, a forward 3 ½ somersaults.
“To start off like that is wonderful, but it’s a reminder to go on to the next one,” Viola said. “I just had a blast. I’m really enjoying the competition. I’m in a very peaceful place.”
Viola maintained the lead through four rounds with 308.55 points ahead of Bell with 260.85, Laura Ryan with 257.40, Amy Korthauer with 255.90 and Anna James with 244.90.
After the men’s 3-meter springboard prelims and semifinals, synchro partners Kris Ipsen, 19, seeking his first Olympic berth, and veteran Troy Dumais, 32, seeking his fourth, finished 1-2.
“It really is a battle, there are so many good competitors,” Ipsen said. “They are all so talented.”
Ipsen finished with 993.80 points. Only 3.05 points separates Dumais, second with 954.20 and Chris Colwill of Brandon with 951.15. Thomas Finchum, competing on springboard for the first time at trials, is fourth with 836.85.
“This is really a stressful environment,” Ipsen said. “This is tough, but I’m not nervous. I feel like my technique is getting better. Every list is like a final every single time.”
The top 12, including three Dumais brothers, Justin, Troy and Dwight, advanced into Sunday’s final. Justin Dumais, 33, returned to diving after his Iraq deployment. He is coached by his former 2004 Olympic teammate Mark Ruiz.
Ipsen, Dumais and Colwill, who is hearing-impaired, separated themselves from the rest of the field in the opening round of semis. Colwill moved into second in the third round with a great forward 2 ½ somersault for 88.40 while Dumais faltered on his back 2 ½ somersault for 64.50.
Dumais bounced back in the fourth round scoring 86.70 on his inward 3 ½ somersault and barely stayed second for the remainder of his list.
During prelims, Ipsen totaled 511.90 points for his six-dive list and Dumais had 465.70. They were among 18 divers who advanced into Wednesday night’s semifinals. Olympian Chris Colwill was third with 458.90.
Drew Livingston dropped from eighth to 17th place and failed to advance after a failed dive in the sixth round.
On Thursday, it’s championship finals time when the first Olympians are selected in the women’s 3-meter synchro and men’s 10-meter synchro at 10 p.m. televised on NBCSN. Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson is color commentator.
NBCOlympics.com will live stream finals on Saturday and Sunday.
Move over Diana Nyad. Aussie Hall of Fame marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey and her crew are in Fort Lauderdale preparing for her 103-mile Cuba-to-Florida Swim. Palfrey, who turns 50 next month, expects to enter the water in Havana between June 23-30 depending on weather. She was successful with her Bridging the Cayman Islands Swim finishing in a world record 67.25 miles. The budget for her latest attempt is about $166,000….
Two-time Olympian and former Fort Lauderdale Diving Team elite diver Jenny Keim Johansen was named new diving coach for North Carolina’s women’s swimming and diving team. She replaces Kevin Lawrence who retired. She had been diving coach at N.C. State since 2008….Olympian Lars Jorgensen has been hired as associated head coach at University of Kentucky. Prior to that Jorgensen had been Tennessee men’s interim head coach and was head coach at Toledo, leading them to the first Mid-American Conference Championship during 2009-2010. Jorgensen will join 21-coaching veteran Gary Connelly at Kentucky. Jorgensen will replace John Brucato who left in May to coach the new program at Bellarmine…Auburn coach Brett Hawke will serve as Bahamian head coach…Florida Gulf Coast University and former Florida Atlantic University assistant coach Neal Studd was named head coach of St. Lucia for the Olympics. He will coach his swimmer, national record holder Danielle Beaubrun…Yahya Radman was hired as diving coach at Wyoming…Even The Weather Channel is catching Olympic fever interviewing Olympic legend Rowdy Gaines on the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, London Olympics and breaking a Guinness World Record for the largest swimming lesson last week.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com