Participating at her maiden Olympic Games, Julia Vincent will be diving into the unknown in the women’s 3-metre springboard in Rio de Janeiro next month.
Eight years since South African last had a diver represented at the Games, Vincent will be hoping her somersaults, and twists would end with her disappearing into the water without much of a splash.
“Going to the Olympics means more to me than I can describe, it’s a dream come true, and it’s an incredible feeling knowing that all the pain, sweat and tears were worth it,” Vincent told Independent Media.
“I feel honoured to be able represent God, my country, my family and my friends on such an influential sporting stage.”
Vincent earned her place to the Rio first securing a slot for the country at the Fina Diving World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in February where she finished 28th overall before winning the national title in April to book her place to the global showpiece.
She will be the first South African diver since Jenna Dreyer who bellyflopped at the 2008 Beijing Games earning a zero points no-dive from the judges which ended her campaign during the preliminary rounds
While Dreyer is better known for her failed attempt in Beijing, her performances four years earlier in Athens where she made it to the semi-finals had been largely forgotten.
Dreyer was the first South African diver since Craig Vaughan was knocked out in the preliminary rounds at the 1992 Barcelona Games to represent the sport at the Olympics.
Vincent, a public health student at the University of South Carolina, said her Olympic dream was fortified when she moved to the United States.
“I’m a very competitive person in and out of the pool, and I’m also a huge advocate for ‘the bigger your goal, the better’,” Vincent said.
“I knew that saying the words out loud, “I want to go to the Olympics” was a bold move but saying it aloud helped me believe in the dream a little more.”
Vincent started diving six years ago when started High School at Kingsmead College in Johannesburg fearlessly deciding to take the plunge.
“The moment I saw the diving boards I told my mom that diving was going to be ‘my thing’ and since that day I have never looked back,” Vincent said.
“I always wanted to go into gymnastics but I never did, and I figured diving is the same thing in water so I might as well give it a try.”
The 21-year-old competed at the 2010 and 2012 World Junior Championships and has represented the country at the 2013 World Diving Championships and the 2014 Diving World Cup.
Vincent said her first goal was to complete the objectives as set out by her coach, Todd Sherritt, but ultimately hoped to reach the semi-final in Rio.
“My other goal for this meet would be to make it to the semi-final, which is the top-18, all while taking in the experience and having fun,” Vincent said.
“My dream was, and still is, fueled by being the diver that I don’t know that I can be. In other words, I am driven by the unknown. I want to see how good I can actually be.
“I want to be the best diver that I can be and being able to constantly work towards that is what ultimately fuels me.”
Wearing black wrist guards on both arms have become one Vincent’s trademark but is also serves as a reminder of the impact the body takes when diving head first into the water.
Since securing her place to the Games, Vincent has been working on a new dive ahead of the preliminary rounds at the Games on August 12.
“I recently competed at a meet in the States, the purpose of competing was to get one more competition in before the Olympics and it was also an opportunity to compete a new dive that I have been working on,” she said.
“I have never competed this dive before, and I was pleasantly surprised as to how it scored. I feel like I am in a good place going to the last month of my training.
“I’m ready to put in the last bit of work to make sure I’m ready for the biggest meet of my life.” - Independent Media
* Ockert de Villiers will be covering the Olympic Games for Independent Media