Olympic dream alive for East Chapel Hill diver

McCrory has a chance to land a spot on the U.S. Olympic team

Staff WriterJuly 4, 2008 

  • * 3 1/2 somersault pike

    * 3 1/2 somersault tuck

    * armstand triple somersault tuck

    * reverse 3 1/2 somersault tuck

    * back 3 1/2 somersault tuck

    * back 2 1/2 pike with 1 1/2 twists

Nick McCrory is the best male high school diver in North Carolina history, but that may be understating his talent.

He is trying to become one of the best divers in the world -- and an Olympian.

The 16-year-old senior at East Chapel Hill High School recently finished fourth in the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis, earning a berth in this week's national team selection camp in Knoxville, Tenn.

He has won three straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A diving titles, setting the state record for points under high school scoring (601.9) as a freshman and blasting it this spring (637.3).

The U.S. will send two divers to compete in the Beijing Olympics. David Boudia won the trials and has one spot, but the other diver will be selected at the camp.

The divers will be evaluated by U.S. Olympic team diving officials this week. The second platform diver will be announced Monday.

McCrory is among three favorites for the berth, said his coach, Drew Johansen, who is the Duke diving coach and a U.S. national diving coach since 2004.

"Nick is among the top four divers in the country," Johansen said. "On the last day of the trials, he posted one of the highest scores of the year.

"The selection process is going to be a battle, and Nick is in the middle of it."

McCrory entered the final round of six dives at the trials in seventh place, but had the second highest total of the day, a career-best 520 points. He received three perfect 10s from the judges on his back 3 1/2 somersault from the tuck position.

"I came out of the trials with a lot of confidence," McCrory said. "I learned a lot."

McCrory has won various junior national titles and been in the top 10 in senior nationals, but he had never been under a spotlight as bright as the Olympic trials.

"There were cameras everywhere and much bigger crowds than I was used to," he said. "At first, I was pretty nervous, but toward the end I came to my senses and figured this thing out."

McCrory, who was diving with a fractured foot, moved up steadily during the competition. He was ninth after the preliminary round and seventh after the semifinals.

"Doing well in the finals was really good for me, because I wasn't very happy with some of my dives in the semifinals," he said.

McCrory started diving when he was 8, looking with envy at divers while he was at swimming practice.

It isn't easy to become an accomplished diver in the 10-meter platform (about 33 feet up or like jumping from the top of a three-story building).

He often trained at UNC's Koury Natatorium -- a wonderful facility, he said -- but one without a 10-meter platform. There are only a handful of 10-meter platforms in the state, and he often ended up having to go to Huntersville, near Charlotte, to train.

"That was a few years ago," he said. "Some other places have opened up for me since I've improved."

He fractured the bone in his foot two weeks ago while playing pickup basketball with friends. He wears a walking cast when not competing and can't get on a springboard for a while.

"I love to play sports with my friends," he said. "But I'm starting to believe that I shouldn't because I might get hurt."

Regardless of how the selection process comes out in Knoxville this week, McCrory will have international competition this year. He is a member of the U.S. team to the Junior World Championships in Aachen, Germany, in September.

After that, he plans to compete for East Chapel Hill High during the winter and would like to add his fourth straight NCHSAA title.

"I love competing with my high school team," he said. "My friends are there and it is really a lot of fun."

He said it isn't boring even though he is the overwhelming favorite in every high school meet.

"Not to me," he said. "Being on the high school team is so much fun."

tim.stevens@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-8910

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