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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Former Arizona Wildcats diver set for Olympic trials

Lydia Stern
Lydia Stern/ Daily Wildcat Photo Illustration by Lydia Stern

In December, senior diver Ben Grado was focused on one goal: a national championship. Grado had already been named an All-American and qualified for the Olympic trials for the summer of 2011, but was missing one piece of his legacy — in his mind anyway.

At the NCAA Championships in March, Grado accomplished his goal, where he became the first diver in Arizona history to win a national championship, beating out 25 other divers with a score of 487.25. Graduation has come and gone for Grado and he now sets his sights and insatiable appetite for success on the 2012 Olympic trials, which started Tuesday in Federal Way, Wash.

“Knowing that when I pushed myself then, and I was able to get what I wanted to achieve, going out doing the same thing, it’s more realistic of me achieving my goal because it’s happened before, so it can happen again,” Grado said.

Grado will compete in a group of more than 120 divers from across the country in an effort to be one of the last two remaining, earning a spot on the United State dive team that will compete in the London games later this summer. Despite the change in scenery and level of competition, Grado will be aided by his former coaches, Michele Mitchell, who was Grado’s coach for his first four years, and Omar Ojeda, one of Arizona’s most decorated divers in school history.

“I will have both of them at my disposal, which is tremendous and more than I could ever ask for,” Grado said. “Michele has really molded me into the diver I’ve become and Omar has been amazing at really putting his aspects of diving into my technique and helping me evolve into where I am now.”

Where he is now is the biggest crossroads in any diver’s life. There is no professional diving league, the way other college athletes can continue their playing days after school. Instead for Grado, it’s starting an Olympic career for the United States — or joining Cirque Du Soleil.

“My goal would be top four,” Grado said. “If I make top four, I achieved everything I came here to achieve. Anything more than that would be icing on the cake. If I don’t make the team, I plan on just trying for Cirque Du Soleil.”

The stage and pressure Grado will face this week is certain to be larger than any other he has faced, apart from last summer’s Olympic trials, but said he feels comfortable because he’s going in with the same team and tactics that helped him win his first NCAA title.

“Preparation wise, it’s fairly similar because it’s another meet I’m competing at with goals that I’ve set for myself,” Grado said. “Even though it’s a bigger meet, I’m doing the same exact dives the same exact way.”

Grado is not only maintaining the same consistency, but his mindset and confidence have not wavered. He will be competing against some of the best amateur and professional divers in the country.

“There’s a fire under my butt saying this is my last hurrah, so make it the best that I can make it,” Grado said.

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