Brittany Viola performs a dive during the women's 10-meter platform… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Last year, while she was recovering from a second surgery on her right foot, Brittany Viola considered that her diving career might be over. And it's not as if she has no plans for the rest of her life.
The 24-year-old, who is the daughter of former major league pitcher Frank Viola, has her degree from University of Miami. Her major was electronic media and sports administration. "I want to do something in sports," Viola said Saturday at the Spieker Athletics Center at UCLA.
But for the near future anyway, that "something in sports" is still going to be diving.
Viola won the AT&T National Diving Championship women's 10-meter platform gold medal, taking a comfortable victory over 15-year-old silver medalist Gracia Leydon-Mahoney of Newton, Mass. Viola had 348.75 points while Leydon-Mahoney finished with 306.05.
Kristian Ipsen, 18, of Walnut Creek, who will be a freshman at Stanford this fall, won the men's three-meter springboard gold medal, edging out Drew Livingston of The Woodlands, Texas, and 31-year-old Troy Dumais of Ventura. Ipsen, who had trailed Dumais after each of the first five dives of the six-dive final round, scored big with his final attempt to pull in front.
Ipsen finished with 499.50 points; Livingston had 495.30 and Dumais came in with 490.30.
Kassidy Cook, 16, of The Woodlands, Texas, and 26-year-old Stanford graduate Cassidy Krug won the women's synchronized three-meter springboard.
Ipsen said he had come into the national championships "super nervous." He had finished 31st at the recent world championships in Shanghai and considered himself in a slump.
Before his final dive, Ipsen said he had a brief meeting with his coach, Phil Tonne. "I usually don't like to look at the scoreboard, but I was super nervous and saw the scores and said, "Ack, I need to do a really good last one.' So then I was really nervous."
Ipsen's nerves worked in a good way, though. They provided him the adrenaline to get height off the board and enter the water with almost no splash. "I'm super happy I competed here," he said.
Viola felt the same way. She led four of the five rounds and had over a 30-point cushion going into her final dive.
As much fun as winning is for Viola now, just competing pain-free is even better. Viola had been a gymnast before she took up diving and she said that years of trying to perfectly point her toes had caused her to tear a tendon. She said she came back too quickly after an original surgery and needed a second to remove scar tissue and take out floating bone fragments.
"There was a point during recovery where I was not knowing if I could come back. It took a while to get to a place where I was satisfied enough to press forward to try for the Olympics.
"But the more I've done therapy my foot has become stronger and stronger and now it doesn't hurt at all. It's fantastic."