U diver earns trip to U.S. Olympic Trials in Seattle

by Brian Stensaas

After missing the U.S. Olympic Trials on the 10-meter platform by nine points Tuesday, Minnesota junior diver Dan Croaston knew he had the 3-meter springboard to look forward to.
After all, the 3-meter has long been Croaston’s strongest event. He didn’t even think making the coveted Olympic Trials was possible for him on the tower, so the 3-meter should have been a lock.
Or not.
A tired and nervous Croaston just reached his goal Thursday night at the Aquatic Center, finishing 12th on the 3-meter, the final slot to make the Olympic Trials June 20-25 in Seattle. The rest of the diving finals wrapped up Friday and Saturday.
“I’m pretty relieved,” Croaston said in an “aw, shucks” tone. “It hasn’t totally sunk in yet, but when it does I know it will be good.”
While Croaston reached his childhood dream, in the process he achieved something special on a more current level. Finishing right behind Croaston was renowned ex-gopher PJ Bogart. Once a Big Ten diver of the year and a national indoor diving champion, Bogart holds all three Aquatic Center diving records.
And Croaston can never seem to catch him.
After coming within a point of Bogart’s school record in the 3-meter at the Big Ten championships, Croaston made it known that his goal was to see his name listed above his counterpart’s — his rival — in some way, shape or form.
Mission accomplished.
Early on, it looked like Croaston might have to wait until next year to beat Bogart.
Diving in the middle of the field, Croaston’s first dive on the 3-meter was well executed but his toes knocked the front of the board on the way down, giving him a string of 5.5 scores and knocking him toward the bottom of the pack.
And according to Gophers diving coach KZ Li, a mistake like Croaston’s can make all the difference to the judges.
“Diving is different than, say, a team sport. In diving there’s more beauty, skill, that sort of thing,” he said. “And it does affect the judging. It’s important for a diver to always look their best.”
“I thought, ‘maybe this just isn’t destined to be. Maybe I am not meant to be diving at the Olympic Trials,'” Croaston said about his first dive. “I was a little nervous, but I knew I could come back.
His instinct was right. Suddenly Croaston found himself in the last round of semifinals. He figured to need around 50 points. Dive well, score high and you move on to Seattle. Make just one mistake and wait another four years for the next chance.
On the board with 506 points Croaston mentally pictured his dive, took a deep breath and did his thing. He received marks good enough to put him in contention for his goal.
“Everything else blanks out when you’re up there,” Croaston said. “It’s just you, the board and the water. You know you have to do your best, or you’re SOL.”
After watching the rest of the field complete its final dives, Croaston had killed two birds with one stone. His 554.22 points were 2.58 better than Bogart’s for the final Olympic Trial spot.
“Being able to make trials and beat PJ at the same time was pretty good,” Croaston said. “Everybody was pretty happy for me. This is a childhood dream; it’s always been my goal. I’m very satisfied.”
Croaston said that not much will change for him training-wise this summer. He will attempt to get his strength up in the weight room and practice on a more regular basis to gear up for the biggest opportunity of his life.
Only the top two divers in Seattle move on to Sydney for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. He may be the last qualifier in Washington, but everyone will start in a tie for the lead.