Croaston dives into tough competition at U.S. Olympic Trials

by Monica Wright

Weyerhauser Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash., is a long way from Golden Gopher country for senior diver Dan Croaston.
But despite the distance, Croaston is still in pursuit of something golden in the Pacific Northwest: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Diving team.
This week Croaston has been competing at the Olympic Diving Trials in hopes of representing the United States at this year’s Olympics in Sydney.
Vying against 16 of the country’s best divers for only two team berths, Croaston is focusing solely on the 3-meter dive rather than both the 3- and 10-meter platform.
After Tuesday’s semifinal round of competition in which Croaston took 16th out of 17 places, his chances of making the team are looking even slimmer.
But a disappointing finish this year won’t bring an end to Croaston’s Olympic hopes.
According to Dave Burgering, vice president of U.S. Senior Diving, these results aren’t unusual for a youthful diver among such elite competition.
“Dan has a lot of potential,” Burgering told The Daily earlier this month. “In our sport, maturity is a big thing. He is still considered a rookie. If he doesn’t let outside influences get to him and dives well, sure, he could be a dark horse and be a surprise to a lot of people.”
Judging by Croaston’s Big Ten record, the chance for an upset wouldn’t be out of character.
This season Croaston took home his second Big Ten 3-meter title, placed first in both the 1- and 3-meter events at the NCAA Zone C diving competition, and qualified for the Olympic trials by placing fourth at the U.S. Zone Diving Qualifying meet.
“Dan had it as a goal to make the trials, so he wasn’t surprised to make it,” Minnesota coach Dennis Dale said. “He knew he had to dive very well to make it and that’s what he did.”
While Croaston’s record is formidable, his international experience is not, leading Dale to believe his 2000 Olympic plans may be short-lived. But that doesn’t mean Croaston won’t be back in 2004.
“I would say that he has a chance but there are so few divers that qualify,” Dale said. “His best chance is in four years when he has had more international experience; on the national scene he’s still a relative rookie, in terms of a diver he is young.”
Should Croaston beat the odds and earn the right to represent the United States, he will begin a whirlwind of activities to promote the team right up to the opening ceremonies in Sydney on Sept. 15.
Almost immediately following the trials the team will set out on a six-city journey throughout the country on a U.S. Diving Team Tour.
Practice and training for a medal will also be packed into the schedule before the team heads to Australia.
But regardless of whether Croaston cracks the top ten at the trials or nets a medal in the fall, Dale believes the experience of such strong competition is the most important aspect of Croaston’s trip West.
“He will gain the ability to compete at his best against other great divers, which can be a distraction,” Dale said. “The pressure of the trials, particularly your first, is a lot for anyone to handle but he will learn from this experience.
“I would say this is just the beginning of his career representing the U.S. abroad”
Monica Wright welcomes comments at [email protected].