Ever since high school, it was Kristen Hayden’s dream to make Team USA for the 2020 Olympics.
Even before attending the University of Minnesota, the Gophers’ diver knew she was going to take an off-year following her junior season to pursue that dream. Hayden did just that this year, trading the hectic life of a college student for a rigorous training program.
Before school started, she decided to move back to Indiana to train with her high school coach, spending seven hours a day, six days a week, working out and perfecting her dives in preparation for the Olympic trials.
In an unlikely change of events, the Olympics were postponed until 2021 amid COVID-19 concerns, leaving the date for the trials to be determined.
Hayden will have to wait on her pursuit of making the Olympic team after a year of intense training, but she hasn’t let that get her down.
She has kept the same hours and routine. Even without access to pools and facilities, Hayden’s schedule is the same, though she has replaced diving with visualization and watching film. Any training she can continue to do outside the pool, she is doing on a daily basis.
“I wake up, I do meditation in the morning and then I do pilates to stay active,” Hayden said. “[I] do a lot of visualization. I model my dives in my room.”
Along with her regular training routine, Hayden has found a way to help younger divers in their pursuits while social distancing.
Hayden said she and another teammate lead live video workouts for their younger teammates and the next generation of divers. The workouts take place Monday through Friday for an hour and a half each day.
For Hayden, the workouts are a way for her to help the diving community, and she said the exercises are a way to motivate younger divers — as well as herself.
“We try to change it up too because I know they’re young and get bored easily with the same things,” she said. “We’ll go through pilates videos and we’re like, ‘Oh, that exercise is really good, let’s put that into the live video.'”
The next year remains fluid for Hayden. The Olympic trials are still without a date, and the NCAA has not yet made a decision whether collegiate athletes will be able to take a second Olympic year in 2020-2021.
Despite the uncertainty of the near future, Hayden has navigated the challenges and maintained her Olympic dream. She can see the positives in the midst of a difficult time.
“I know it stinks, but it’s pretty neat that the whole world agreed on something,” she said. “I know that we dedicate our whole lives to [sports], but our health and safety as a person is more important than trying to compete or have the games go on.”