Poor flexibility trumps my good attitude

By Aaron Graff

Heights have always been a fear of mine and flexibility has never been my biggest strength, which means diving was not my ideal sport.

Junior Kegan Skelton was involved in gymnastics before he started diving, and it shows. In practice, Skelton flips and spins, but it was difficult enough for me to stand on my hands and I was not even going to try half the tricks he was doing.


Our experience levels are a little different, but I challenged Skelton to the best of three dives from the three-meter diving board, which is a lot higher than it sounds.

Skelton was gracious enough to show me a hurdle, which is a common yet difficult way to begin a dive. He was extremely helpful as a coach, and said he could see himself as a coach in the future. Diving coach, Joy Zhao, said he makes her a better coach because of his will to improve and ability to help her.

My first dive, I didn’t even bother trying the hurdle, because the board wasn’t as forgiving as my practice surface. It was a custom dive called the cannon ball to pencil, which started in cannon ball form, but changed to a straight body before hitting the water.

I nailed it.

Skelton’s first dive was nowhere near as difficult as the practice dives he plans to use in competition, but I knew it was over from there.

For my last two official dives, I attempted the hurdle into a 180-degree spin, to show my competitive side. The board was still quick, and I fell off both times with no trick performed.

Skelton told me to try an extra time just for fun. It took a few faults before actually somewhat completing the dive. I spun approximately 165 degrees. Skelton said the hurdle makes it tough to do the full 180-degree spin. Skelton and Zhao gave a round of applause for me.

Afterwards, Skelton said my dives were not in the diving book, but he scored me at four out of ten for a beginner.

Zhao made me feel a little better by saying my attitude was great for her coaching style. She scored me somewhere between a five and six. However, I still don’t expect myself to walk onto next year’s team.

My respect level for diving went up after this competition. Swim coach Rick Walker said diving often gets overlooked after the women’s conference championships. Obviously flips and spins would be difficult for someone who doesn’t practice, but even the fluctuating temperatures made my training difficult.

Saluki divers practice on trampolines and gymnastic mats above the pool, which feel like a sauna. Normal abdominal workouts were difficult for me there because of the muggy weather. After that, they jump into a cold pool repeatedly. They never complain and almost every member on the team qualified for the NCAA zone diving tournament this season.

Skelton is the only diver competing in the Mid-American Conference Championships, and Zhao said he has a good shot of winning the three-meter dive.

Skelton competes in the MAC championships this weekend in Buffalo, N.Y. and the zone diving tournament March 14-16.