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August 2, 2012

OLYMPICS: Dumais finally claims diving medal

LONDON — Troy Dumais could've called it a career. Came close, really close, to doing just that, even as the London Olympics were approaching.

He went to his parents for advice. They made it clear they would support whatever he wanted to do, but asked him to consider one thing: Would he regret walking away from the sport he had competed in most of his life?

"Even when times were tough, I decided, 'Yeah, I would regret it,''' Dumais said. "That's why I kept going.''

Good thing. On Wednesday, Dumais finally made it to the one spot he's been chasing his whole diving career: the medal stand at the Olympics.

The 32-year-old Californian teamed with teenager Kristian Ipsen to give the United States its third straight medal on the boards. It was quite an accomplishment for a team that hadn't won any medals since the 2000 Sydney Games, and even more so for Dumais.

He was just the second man to make four U.S. Olympic diving teams, but unlike the first - four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis - there wasn't a medal in Dumais' collection until he and the 19-year-old Ipsen took bronze in the 3-meter synchronized.

China's Qin Kai and Luo Yutong ran away with the gold medal, completing their country's sweep of the synchro events and putting it halfway to its goal of winning all eight diving events. Russia's Ilya Zakharov and Evgeny Kuznetsov overtook the Americans in the final round for silver.

But Dumais had no complaints. Not after so much disappointment.

He just missed making the Olympic team as a 16-year-old, finishing third on the platform at the 1996 U.S. trials. Once he did make the team, he kept coming up short - most notably in 2000, when he finished fourth in springboard synchro, and again four years later when he had a shot at a medal with his brother Justin, but the siblings botched their final dive.

Dumais decided to come back for his fourth Olympics, looking to snap a streak of four straight sixth-place finishes.

Finally, he got his medal.

"Things happen the way they're supposed to happen,'' Dumais said. "I never felt defeated. I felt more energized to do this because I was so close.''

He thought of his brother, who still competes in synchro with a third sibling, as he stepped onto the board for his final dive with Ipsen, fully aware that a medal was possible even though he wasn't keeping up with the scores.

"(Justin) was up there with me,'' Dumais said, choking up a bit.

The Americans kept up their medal-winning ways, providing a huge boost going into the individual events that begin Friday with preliminaries of the women's springboard. So far, they have a silver and two bronzes.

"It motivated me, and it took the pressure off,'' said Ipsen, knowing the team already had two medals when he stepped on the springboard. "We knew the drought of Olympic medals was over. Now, let's go have a great time. All three teams that medaled have done that. We've really enjoyed our Olympic experience.''

In fact, Dumais asked Ipsen that very question before each of their six dives.

"Are you having fun?'' Dumais would say.

"I'm loving it,'' was always Ipsen's reply.

"Good,'' Dumais said, "because I am too.''

Qin and Luo led all six rounds of the final, totaling 477.00 points. It was Qin's second straight springboard synchro title, having won the event four years ago in Beijing with a different partner.

"I think Chinese divers have done a great job so far,'' Qin said through a translator. "We have four golds now and they all came with perfect performances.''

The Chinese won seven of eight gold medals at their home Olympics. They want one more this time.

"Our team leaders told us that we were the closest country to win all the medals,'' Luo said. "Of course, there's a lot of pressure but they told us to only worry about ourselves. Be ourselves. Don't worry about the sweep. Showcase the best of China diving to the whole world, that's what we've got to do.''

Qin pumped his fist as he stepped up to the top spot on the podium. Luo was competing in his first Olympics, although he won a world championship in synchro springboard last year.

Zakharov and Kuznetsov totaled 459.63 and led Russia to its 100th silver since it resumed competing at the Olympics as a single nation in the 1994 Lillehammer Games. They paused during the victory parade to dip their medals into the diving well.

"It's a Russian tradition,'' Zakharov said. "We do that so we'll get more medals. If you put your medals in the water, you'll get more medals out of the water.''

Dumais and Ipsen finished with 446.70.

Finally, the four-time Olympian has his medal.

"He never gave up,'' said his coach, former U.S. diver Matt Scoggin. "He still had the fire in him when a lot of people would've retired. It's just extreme satisfaction of a job well done. Yes, it took a little longer than he would've wanted. But it was arguably worth the wait.''

Dumais has another event in London, the individual 3-meter springboard.

After that, he might finally be ready to walk away - with no regrets and at least one medal in hand.

"My one gift I can give the sport of diving is my experience, what I have gone through,'' Dumais said. "That's what I want to give back to diving. That's what I want to give back to Kristian.''

 

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