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U.S. OLYMPIC DIVING TRIALS

Wilkinson Barely Gets Past Viola

June 14, 2004|From Associated Press

ST. PETERS, Mo. — Her chances still a question mark going into her final dive, Laura Wilkinson survived a scare at the U.S. trials Sunday and earned a chance to defend her gold medal at the Olympics.

Wilkinson, a surprise winner of the 10-meter platform at Sydney four years ago, went to the final round with a 5.37-point lead over 17-year-old Brittany Viola, the daughter of former major league pitcher Frank Viola.

Unlike past years, when the top two in each event made the team, only the winner was guaranteed a spot. Wilkinson faced the prospect of missing the team altogether, having already been upset in synchronized 10-meter.

"I was pretty aware of the scores at this contest," Wilkinson said. "I knew I had missed some dives. I wanted to know what I had to do."

Viola, going four divers ahead of Wilkinson, over-rotated the entry on her final attempt, leading to mediocre scores ranging from 5.5 to 6.0.

Still, Wilkinson couldn't afford to bobble on her last dive, a backward pike 2 1/2 somersault with 1 1/2 twists -- the most difficult in her repertoire.

The 26-year-old Texan didn't waver.

Her marks: a row of 9s broken up by one 8.5, giving her a total of 878.85 points. Viola, of Orlando, Fla., settled for second with 836.40.

Asked if she ever got advice from her father, Viola smiled.

"He has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to diving," she said. "He just says work hard and do your best. He makes me so relaxed when I go out there."

Because of IOC rules limiting the number of spots for each country, Viola won't be on the Olympic team. The second spot in platform will go to the highest-scoring member of the winning synchro team, Sara Hildebrand.

"I'm so happy I finished second," Viola said. "I don't even care."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Going for Gold

Divers who have made the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, hometown, event:

*--* Men Justin Dumais Ventura springboard synchronized Troy Dumais Ventura springboard, springboard synchronized Caesar Garcia Baton Rouge, La. platform Kyle Prandi Strongsville, Ohio platform, platform synchronized Mark Ruiz Orlando, Fla. platform synchronized Justin Wilcock Smithfield, Utah springboard Women Cassandra Cardinell Loudonville, N.Y. platform synchronized Sara Hildebrand St. Paul, Minn. platform, platform synchronized Rachelle Kunkel West Valley City, Utah springboard Kimiko Soldati Magnolia, Texas springboard Laura Wilkinson Spring, Texas platform

*--*

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