1) Winter Nationals are a week away. Are you ready?
“I’m definitely ready. I’m doing something a little different this time around. Instead of competing my normal platform events, I am doing 3-meter individual and 3-meter synchro. It’s a change, but I’m excited.”
2) Even though you’re not diving 10-meter at nationals, you are still training on platform, correct?
“Definitely. The goal is still to compete on 10-meter in Rio. I just saw after World Championships this summer (where he won the silver medal) that there was some need to step up my list. I’m working on a couple new dives on platform, and I didn’t want to push it going into competition. I’m doing some bigger and harder dives to hopefully not contend for second place but to contend for the top.”
3) How is training on springboard going? As you mentioned, it’s a bit of a change for you.
“I dove springboard all three years in college, and I really enjoyed it. Ironically, I actually won more NCAA titles on 3-meter than I did on 10-meter. I’m getting back into the swing of things. It’s definitely a lot different. It’s harder in different ways than it is on platform, but I’m enjoying it. It’s something new. I’ve been doing platform for so long that I think this change is good and is kind of rejuvenating my passion for the sport.”
4) This feature is called A Perfect 10, and you’ve had quite a few of them over the years. What would you say is the best dive you’ve ever done?
“The best dive I’ve ever done … there have been a few good ones. One that just popped into my head immediately is my inward 3 ½ that you have on YouTube from the World Championship Trials at Florida State this summer. That’s one dive that sticks out to me because it’s so fresh in my mind. It got all 10s but one.”
5) It’s pretty well known you used to be afraid to go off the 10-meter. Do you remember the first time you went off 10-meter?
“The first time I went off 10-meter was actually before I was a diver. Back in the day, the pool at Forest Park (in his hometown of Noblesville, Ind.) was open to the public to jump off 7-meter and 10-meter. The only reason I jumped off was because my friends were doing it, and I didn’t I want to look like a sissy. That’s why I did it.”
6) What advice would you give someone about to go off 10-meter for the first time?
“It’s extremely hard to get your courage up and get enough guts to jump or dive off the 10-meter for the first time. I know one of the big things that helped push me to dive off it more and more was the fact that I had my goals in mind. I knew that if I didn’t jump or dive, then my goals would not become a reality.”
7) You’ve admitted a fear of heights, but yet you also went sky diving earlier this year. If you thought the 10-meter was high, that must have been 10 times worse. How did that come about?
“I always said I would never sky dive or jump out of a plane because it’s absolutely crazy. Sonnie, my wife, has gone sky diving, and I think everyone in her immediate family has. I couldn’t be the one to not do it. As an early anniversary present for our one-year anniversary, I worked out a deal where we could jump together. I really only did it for Sonnie, nobody else. I hope she was happy with that.”
8) So, if Sonnie talked you into sky diving … have you gotten her to go off the 10-meter?
“Yes. Sonnie’s a beast. Every summer her family goes to a lake on the Kentucky/Tennessee border called Dale Hollow. There’s a bunch of cliffs there, so she’s been jumping off of heights like that since she was about 13. She’s a perfect dream woman for me, I guess, in every single way. She’s athletic and she’s a daredevil.”
9) How’s school going? You’re just about finished, right?
“I’m one final away, and then my undergrad will be complete. I’ll be done on Wednesday and then I’ll be a Purdue University graduate – in under six years!”
10) You’re going to be receiving USA Diving’s Athlete of the Year for the fifth time. You’ve received a lot of awards and honors over the years. What does this one mean to you?
“Having won USA Diving’s Athlete of the Year award again this year is really special. Since becoming Olympic champion, it’s been extremely hard to completely balance everything in my diving life, my professional life and my personal life. It’s been the hardest year ever for me, even just to get into the pool. I was off and on with my diving this year. It’s rewarding to go into a world championship and be able to still compete that well even with the lack of training that was there. I guess it’s instilled in you. It’s just whether your mind can keep up with your body. I think that’s why this one is special.”