The job of representing South Florida at this week’s FINA USA Grand Prix meet was left to University of Miami divers Zachary Nees and Samuel Dorman.
Competing together for the first time in an international competition, Nees and Dorman placed fifth with 385.41 points in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center on Saturday.
The duo actually was in medal contention — third place — at the end of the fifth rotation. But failing to be in synch on their final dive — a forward 2 1/2 with two twists that only earned 54.06 points — bumped them down.
“I got a little excited on the last dive,” said Dorman, an engineering major. “I did what I could at the end and tried to finish it. But all-in-all it was our first international meet together, and we stepped up and did what we could and had fun.”
The most anticipated event of the day, however, wasn’t the Miami students, but reigning Olympic gold medalist David Boudia. The stands surrounding the pool were packed with an enthusiastic crowd of a few hundred and there was no doubt they were there to see Boudia in the men’s platform final.
Boudia, competing for the first time since winning at the London Games last year, did well enough to take silver with 518.60 points. He actually was in the lead until Yanquan Zhang of China went off for the final dive of the day with thunder rumbling close by.
Both divers chose a 2 1/2 backwards 1/2 twist for their sixth and final dive, but Yanquan did it better, receiving 97.20 points against Boudia’s 81.00. That difference enabled Yanquan to finish with a slim advantage of 521.00 points.
“I’m super pleased for where I am right now,” Boudia said. “I’m just glad to be in the competition where I can be competitive with the Chinese at this stage.”
Although the windy afternoon was primarily about Boudia, clearly a celebrity around the swimming complex, it was Nees and Dorman who were being viewed as a potential future pairing of note for USA diving.
This is the first year that Nees and Dorman are competing as a synchronized team. Nees was at Indiana University for three years before coming to Miami in September. His incentive to transfer was in pairing with Dorman and working with longtime Miami coach Randy Ableman. Both divers redshirted this year but will be competing next season for Miami.
“I love it here,” said Nees, a computer science major. “I love working with Randy, and he knows how to motivate me.”
The goal ahead for both is progressing to where they’ll be likely to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic diving team.
Dorman, 21, who hails from Tempe, Ariz., isn’t hesitant to admit he wants to be going to Brazil in three years.
“That’s the plan. Randy is the greatest coach I’ve ever had,” Dorman said. “He makes practice great. He’s never hard on you unless you need it.”
For Nees, 22, from the Philadelphia suburbs, there’s no secret as to what he has to do to advance.
“I need to improve mentally. I have most of the physical skills.” Nees said. “I can do the dives in practice, so I just need to step up in meets and hit my first list.”
Ableman believes that the next Olympics is a realistic ambition for Nees and Dorman.
“I’m very pleased and they held up really well,” Ableman said. “They had a couple of unbelievable dives. They left some room for improvement, that’s for sure, and we’ll work on that for the world trials next week in Tallahassee.”