As she prepared for her first trip to the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials back in May, Krysta Palmer pondered a question whether she would continue to push ahead with her competitive career beyond 2016.
“I want to continue until I feel that I’m at my potential,” she explained.
After performing at the Trials in Indianapolis, where she placed fourth in synchronized 10-meter platform diving and ninth in the individual platform, Palmer is ready to continue her dream of competing at the Olympics.
“I see more potential and my coach sees more potential,” said Palmer, a 2010 Douglas High and recent University of Nevada graduate . “So, yes, we’re definitely going to continue until I feel that I’ve reached my potential.”
Palmer and her synchronized diving partner, 13-year-old Tarrin Gilliland of Liberty Hill, Texas, were photographed expressing their intentions shortly after the Olympic Trials competition ended.
“It was really funny. I was with Tarrin and I said, ‘My parents want to congratulate you.’” Palmer recalled. “So we went over to talk to my parents for a minute and I was like, ‘Let’s hold up 20-20 with our fingers.’”
For Palmer, who only turned to diving at the University of Nevada after injuries had ended her attempts at gymnastics and trampoline, the Olympic Trials results were promising.
“I was very happy,” she said. “NBC did an interview with me before the meet started and asked me, ‘What’s your goal? Do you want to make the team?’ I said, ‘I can’t go in with too much expectations. Obviously, I do want to make a spot on the team and I’m definitely going for that. But after only 3-1/2 years, I can’t expect too much.”
Those expectations are much higher today for Palmer, who will continue working with Nevada Wolf Pack Diving Coach and former Chinese Olympian Jian Li You as a post-graduate athlete and student assistant coach.
“My coach is very knowledgeable in the sport, so if she sees more potential in me and knows that she can get more out of me, that’s the more important thing,” Palmer said. “With how much she’s helped me and the sacrifices she’s made to get me where I am today, I’m going to put my hardest work into it to get to the highest level that I can. If we’ve already got this far in 3-1/2 years, what can we do in another 3-1/2?
“The future’s bright, but there’s also work that comes into it and I know the job’s not done,” she added. “So I want to put in as much as I can in the next four years.”
Whereas the prime age in gymnastics may be 16 or 17, she explains, divers often compete into their 30s.
“It’s a lower impact sport so people can do it for a longer period of time,” Palmer said. “Experience makes a big difference, especially competing in springboard. It’s definitely a mental sport.”
So, too, synchronized diving and her partnership with Gilliland may be part of those future plans. They competed together twice, at the national championships and then the Olympic Trials. Palmer said the partnership was only determined in April after she was contact by Gilliland’s coach, Gabi Chereches, a former Olympic diver for Romania and former All-American at Tennessee.
“We went to the synchronized nationals and just tried it out. Then after that is when we saw the potential and we said, ‘We’re going to go for it,’” Palmer said.
Gilliland, who narrowly made the minimum Olympic age cutoff since she turns 14 in September, is a four-time individual junior national champion. She also won a bronze medal at the 2015 USA Diving Winter National Championships.
“Some people say it must be cool for her to dive with an adult,” Palmer said. “But the first time I heard that, I was like, ‘It’s kind of cool for me to dive with her. She’s a teenager and it takes you back to like how you used to think as a kid. You have really high dreams. I think you lose that a little bit as you grow older. You get more to reality and some of those dreams don’t come true. But at the same time, she’s reminding me to keep dreams alive and keep making goals.”
She is anxious to see what the future holds.
“A lot could happen in four years,” Palmer said. “She’s only 13, so if she still develops, still has an enjoyment for the sport and we still end up being synchronized partners, then it will be really cool. We’ll definitely give it our best shot.”
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