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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, August 02, 2002

Olympic dreams Olympic dreams (August 02, 2002)

Nation's finest junior divers are taking a big step toward those gold-medal goals this week at the Speedo National Junior Diving Championships at Stanford

by Keith Peters

Greg Louganis started this way. He wound up winning springboard and platform gold medals in both the 1984 and 1988 Summer Games.

Laura Wilkinson started this way, too. She wound up winning the gold medal on the platform at the 2000 Sydney Games. Mark Ruiz got his start here and wound up as a 2000 Olympian. Troy Dumais won over 70 national titles.

All competed at one time in the National Junior Diving Championships, a springboard to Senior Nationals and eventually, perhaps, the Olympic Games.

More than 300 junior divers have been twisting and flipping, tucking and piking, doing reverses and inwards this week at Stanford University's Avery Aquatic Center and Maas Diving Center. Many hope to be the next Louganis or Ruiz or Dumais or Wilkinson. They are the sport's future.

"Everybody goes through the system," said Dr. Rick Schavone, head coach of the Stanford Diving club team competing this week and 23-year head coach of the Stanford University diving program.

Schavone said that today's Junior National divers are the Olympians of the future.

"They will be," he said. "There's no question. That's the motivation for everyone being here. They have the same crazy goal."

Landon Marzullo of Columbus, Ohio, certainly is off to a good start in that direction. He swept the Boys' 13-Under titles this week --- winning the 1-meter crown (337.14 points) on Monday, the 3-meter on Tuesday (371.34) and platform on Wednesday (321.75) for the U.S. Elite Diving Academy.

Marzullo now has to be considered a favorite to place among the top-two finishers in any of those events during the World Team Trials that begin today and run through Sunday. The top 16 finishers from the week's National Juniors qualify for the team trials, with the top two this weekend advancing to the 14th FINA Junior World Diving Championships set for Aug. 14-18 in Aachen, Germany.

One athlete from this week's competition at Stanford, Jevon Tarantino, already is qualified for the 2002 Senior National after finishing third on the 3-meter (632.45) during the Speedo National Diving Championships last week in Dallas, Texas.

On Wednesday, Tarantino was crowned champion on the 3-meter board in the Boys' 16-18 competition. He tallied 413.40 points. Last year, Tarantino was the junior national champion on the 1-meter.

Tarantino had to enjoy the weather this week after competing in sweltering conditions in Dallas.

"It was just so hot," Schavone said of Dallas. "So this is great for them."

Wednesday provided perfect weather for the junior divers. In fact, the entire week has been ideal weather-wise.

"It's a perfect setting for a national championship," said Schavone. "This is the greatest pool in the United States."

Schavone would like to host other national events at Stanford, like the Senior National Championships or the Olympic Trials.

"The 2004 Olympic Trials already has a TV contract," Schavone said. "But, we'll hold more of these."

Schavone also would like his Stanford Diving team to be more of a factor in the future. The club did have Hallie Ivester place seventh on the 1-meter board for Girls 13-Under, but injuries to James Bisordi, Sara Bowling and Alysa Robinson left the team with just five qualifiers this week - Central Coast Section champion Matthew Bisordi, Sara Clark, Miranda Maas and Michaela Fossiti. Only Ivester made the finals and placed among the top eight.

The champions this week have come from around the nation. Evan Linette of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for example, defended his platform title in Boys 14-15; while Mary Yarrison of the Montgomery Dive Club in Springfield, Va., won the Girls 16-18 crown on the 1-meter board after winning that title in the 14-15 division last year.

Other champions have come from Texas (13-Under Erin Savas on the 3-meter); Florida (Kara Jayne Salamone on the 14-15 platform) and Indiana (Lindsay Weigle on the Girls 16-18 3-meter).

Diving competition continues through Sunday at Stanford. Admission is free.


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