UM diver Marcela Maric prepares for the 2016 Olympics
Mosquito repellant? Check.
U.S. passport? Croatian passport? Mauritius passport? Check. Check. Check.
Two University of Miami divers and one swimmer are headed to the Rio Olympics in the coming days, each with a unique journey and big dreams.
Sam Dorman, a 2015 NCAA champion at UM, will be competing for the United States in synchronized 3-meter diving with Michael Hixon. Marcela Maric, a rising sophomore at Miami, is representing her native Croatia in the 3-meter event – Croatia’s first-ever Olympic diver. And Heather Arseth, who grew up in Minnesota, is swimming the 100-meter freestyle for Mauritius, an island off the coast of Madagascar where her mother was born.
Joining them in Brazil will be Hurricanes coach Randy Ableman, who has been a part of seven Olympic coaching staffs and always had at least one UM diver on the roster.
Dorman and Maric said training outdoors in Coral Gables will give them an advantage at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center in the Barra da Tijuca region of Rio, the outdoor facility where the Olympic diving events will be held Aug. 7-19.
“A lot of divers going indoors to outdoors have a little bit of an issue with outdoor venues because of the wind, rain, all those little things,” Dorman said. “It’s an advantage being in Miami where it’s hot, humid, rains all the time. We’ve already done all that. One less thing to worry about.”
Ableman agreed, calling it a “huge” advantage for UM-trained divers. He believes Dorman and Hixon, with their difficult list of dives, have a realistic shot at reaching the medal podium.
“Anytime they have an outdoor event, our divers always do incredibly well,” Ableman said. “They had a test event there, a World Cup meet in February, and a lot of divers were missing dives. They’re not used to the sunshine, the rain, all the wind, That’s just an everyday event for us in practice. We’ll be the most ready of everyone there, especially if there’s inclement weather.”
“When you dive indoors, it’s a very sterile environment. It’s perfect. No wind, lighting’s perfect. Outdoors there’s glare, angles of the sun, some events are in the morning, some evening, some underneath the lights. Diving in an outdoor environment is a big advantage. We’re used to adversity every day.”
Although they all plan to wear bug spray, and take precautions against street crime, none of the UM Olympians seemed too worried about the Zika virus or lack of security.
“Last time we were there in February, I put on bug spray before we left hotel, and didn’t get bit at all,” Dorman said. “It’s getting a little cooler there, not as many mosquitoes. Our medical staff is taking care of all those concerns, so we can just focus on our performance and soaking in the experience. I’m definitely looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies. I’m going to have my Go Pro, every camera imaginable to document the whole thing.”
Maric is eager to rub elbows with the Croatian handball team, which she says is very popular back home.
“I still can’t believe my Olympic dream is going to come true,” said Maric, who grew up in Zadar, Croatia, one of the few towns with a seaside pool and aquatic center. “I can’t wait to get to Rio and represent my country and my sport first time ever. Diving is a really small sport in my country. I’ve been dreaming about the Opening Ceremonies. I hope I’ll be able to keep my joy tears in.”