South Florida a good training ground for U.S. Olympic divers

Sam Dorman and Kristian Ipsen of the United States dive in the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard during the FINA World Diving Cup on Feb. 19, 2016.
Sam Dorman and Kristian Ipsen of the United States dive in the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard during the FINA World Diving Cup on Feb. 19, 2016. AP

Conditions were difficult at the FINA Diving World Cup in Rio de Janeiro from February 19 to 24, which was like a dress rehearsal for the Summer Olympics. Divers competed in the rain, wind and darkness at the outdoor venue.

But the American divers said they were well-prepared thanks to a training camp in Fort Lauderdale at the International Swimming Hall of Fame pool where they were tested by the elements.

In Rio, the U.S. team qualified in eight more events to give the United States 10 of a possible 12 spots at the Rio Olympics, one less than in 2012 and two fewer than 2008. The United States did not qualify in women’s 3-meter synchro but still has a chance to qualify a second berth in women’s 3-meter individual before the Summer Games in August.

Local divers were instrumental in the team’s success. Former University of Miami diver Sam Dorman, who trains in Coral Gables with Randy Ableman and Dario Di Fazio, came from behind with partner Kristian Ipsen to finish sixth for the final spot in 3-meter synchro.

UM’s David Dinsmore took the bronze medal in 10-meter to earn a second quota spot for the United States in the event.

Kassidy Cook, who grew up in Plantation, learned to dive in Coral Springs and now lives in Texas, finished seventh in 3-meter and secured a spot for the U.S.

“I trained outdoors in South Florida and at Stanford,” said Cook, who is taking a year off from college to train in Houston. “I’m not afraid of the wind and I like diving in the rain. Nighttime can be tricky. It changes how you spot using the sky and the water when you’re flipping. At night, sky and water blend together so you have to adjust.”

Cook said she considers an outdoor venue an advantage for the United States. In many countries, like China, training sites are primarily indoors.

“We don’t get rattled by the weather,” she said.

The rain came down in Rio as it did in Fort Lauderdale, where chilly temperatures also gave divers a preview of Rio’s winter which they will experience in August. But steady showers didn’t prevent Amy Cozad and Jessica Parratto from finishing fourth in synchro 10-meter even though Cozad’s hand slipped on her wet leg on one inward dive.

“This was a crazy event,” Parratto said. “We didn’t let it affect us and maybe some other countries did.”

Dorman said he grew accustomed to diving outside as a kid in Tempe, Arizona, and at the UM pool.

“We’ve been getting ready by diving more at night,” he said. “You’re used to spotting the water so it’s a different environment, a different type of vision.”

In Rio, Dorman and Ipsen moved up from seventh to sixth on their final dive, a reverse 1½ with 3½ twists to score 77.70 points and nudge Canada.

“I think we just tried to do a normal dive at the end, not trying too hard, and we pulled through,” Dorman said.

After winning a national title with Ipsen in December, Dorman felt increasing pain in his shoulder. Tests showed a torn labrum. He said a cortisone shot has him “back on the right track.”

“I’m pain-free now, and it’s all about pain management for the next six months,” he said. “I’m definitely willing to risk my body for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of diving in the Olympics.”

The United States will select its Olympic team at the diving trials in Indianapolis June 18-26.

Cook, coming off three years of injuries, is also hoping to make the team after missing by less than half a point in 2012 when she was 17. Since then, she has had two right labrum operations and one on her right meniscus and also broke her collarbone. She won summer and winter national titles last year in 3-meter.

“It’s so good to be back on the international scene,” said Cook, who moved up to seventh with 76.50 points on a reverse 2½ pike. “I didn’t know how my nerves were going to be. There’s definitely room to improve and I’m excited to see what the summer has in store for me.”

Dinsmore, 18, scored 497.05 points to finish third behind two Chinese divers on tower, and he edged teammate Steele Johnson with two strong dives in the last two rounds.

“Steele and I have been diving against each other since we were 10 years old, and I can’t believe how awesome it is that we were able to compete with each other on the world stage,” Dinsmore said.

David Boudia, 2012 Olympic gold medalist in 10-meter, earned the United States its other quota spot with his silver at the 2015 world championships.