Before the last of their six dives Monday, Nick McCrory and David Boudia fist-bumped.
Lets do this, said McCrory, 20, who grew up in Chapel Hill and goes to Duke.
Then the two of them climbed to the height of a three-story building, walked out in front of the crowd, stood on the tip of the 10-meter platform and turned backward.
They relaxed their shoulders and lowered their arms together. Boudia counted out loud. One, two, three
It was a literal leap into the unknown. One more great dive likely would win a bronze medal for the U.S. pair of synchronized divers. But a duo from Great Britain had raucous crowd support and was close behind in fourth place.
McCrory and Boudia did 21/2 somersaults while incorporating 21/2 twists, which is so much harder than anything youve ever seen anyone do at a neighborhood pool its incomprehensible. They hit the water at 35mph.
We put that one last because its a high degree of difficulty and we feel very comfortable with it, McCrory said. Its a dive we can do well under pressure.
And they nailed it. Each diver entered the water with about the amount of splash youd see if you threw an arrowhead into a pond. The judges awarded them 95.04 points, which was the pairs best score of the day.
That dive basically clinched the bronze medal for the U.S. and meant that after not getting a diving medal since 2000 entering these Olympics, America suddenly had earned two in two days. Abby Johnston, McCrorys teammate at Duke, won a silver medal Sunday in 3-meter synchronized diving with Kelci Bryant.
Said Drew Johansen, who coaches both divers at Duke and also serves as the U.S. national team diving coach: The Blue Devils got serious about diving about six years ago, and look where were at now.
Chinas Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang won the gold medal by a relatively comfortable margin Chinas 29th gold in the past 42 Olympic diving competitions. Mexicos German Sanchez Sanchez and Ivan Garcia Navarro were second.
Great Britains team of Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield was in first place after three of six dives. But on the fourth dive, Waterfield entered the water with a tremendous splash after flubbing a reverse 31/2 somersault.
Sorry, mate, Waterfield told Daley.
The British duo had been greeted by a 20-second standing ovation before the event, and their presence served to energize both the crowd and McCrory.
I thought it was incredible, McCrory said. I didnt feel it was intimidating to me. It was so cool.
In an odd bit of McCrory family trivia, it turns out he is only the second member of his extended family to win a bronze medal. His uncle, Gordon Downie, won a bronze medal for Great Britain in swimming in 1976.
At the 2011 world championships, McCrory made a mental error late in the competition. He and Boudia had a chance to medal, but he said later he got too excited about the scoreboard and missed on a dive. They ended up finishing fifth.
McCrory said he purposely didnt watch the scoreboard or his competitors Monday, listening to music in between his dives.
What we did differently is we didnt go in thinking about medals at all, he said. This was about just the diving. I wasnt focused on what we had or what we needed. I wasnt watching the scoreboard.
Since McCrory and Boudia hadnt been favored to place among the top three, they were among the happiest bronze medal winners youll ever see. They were hugging and smiling throughout the rest of the day.
They will turn into competitors within about a week, when the two will face off (along with about 30 other divers) in the individual 10-meter Olympic diving competition.
But Monday, they were just happy teammates both with their families in London to watch them, and both with a medal around their necks.