This summer, two Marian alumnae, Abi Knapton ‘16 and Kelly Straub ‘17, had the opportunity to compete at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials. The trials took place in Indianapolis, Indiana from June 6 to June 13.
Straub competed in the 3-meter springboard and made it past preliminaries and semifinals. She then went on to compete in the finals and placed 12th overall. In preparation for the Olympics Straub practiced twice a day six times a week. “My training included weight lifting, dryland, and water practice,” Straub explained.
Knapton competed in 10-meter platform diving and 3-meter springboard. Knapton was the only diver at trials to advance to finals in two events earning 5th on platform diving and 7th on springboard. Abi prepared for the Olympic trials both physically and mentally. “Almost every diver will tell you that diving is like 90% mental and 10% actually diving,” Knapton said. Abi practiced visualization and reflection prior to the trials. “As someone who feeds off of the energy of the crowd, I needed to mentally prepare for the capacity restrictions that would be in place. However I also had to prepare for the excitement that an event like the Olympic trials brings. I didn’t want to be so caught up in all that excitement that I psyched myself out during competition. It was a major balancing act,” Knapton said.
Preparing for the Olympics requires hard work and dedication. “A typical day for me starts at 5 am. I wake up, eat a small breakfast, then head off to lift,” Straub said. After her workout she heads to the fuel station to grab a quick, energizing snack before heading to her master program courses. Straub’s second workout of the day takes place from 4-6. “I come home afterwards, make an amazing dinner with protein, carbs, and vegetables. I study as much as I can until I force myself to go to bed because recovery is a top priority for me,” Straub said.
.For Abi, a typical day begins with a 7 a.m. weight training along with a short practice in the water. After her first workout she grabs a quick breakfast at the athletes dining hall with her teammates before class. “Then I’d have another longer practice at 2:00 until 5:00, and then homework until bed,” Knapton said. Between breakfast and her second workout Abi will either go to rehab and recovery or just take a nap. “Balancing it all is definitely a challenge when you first come to college, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes as easy as breathing,” Knapton said.
Straub and Knapton shared their most rewarding experiences along with the most challenging aspects of preparing for the Olympics.
The most rewarding aspect for Knapton was having her coaches and family there with her to experience it all. “This whole experience was 10+ years in the making. I think back on my younger self who just didn’t expect much from herself, but pushed on anyway, and can’t help but feel like she would be really proud of my journey,” Kanpton said.
Knapton found that the most challenging part of preparing for the Olympic trials was not having a facility to train in. “We have a pool at Nebraska, but not a 10-meter platform, which is my specialty, so I have to travel to Iowa or Missouri to train,” Knapton said. This was difficult for Kanpton because it limited the time she had to practice on the platform along with time for sharpening her skills and getting consistent.
Straub explained that the most challenging part of training for the Olympics was training without her teammates. “They push me, support me, and give me the strength to continue pushing through the tough days,” Straub said.
Both Knapton and Straub took away their own rewarding lessons from the Olympic trials. For Straub that was the power of a positive mindset. Straub explained that while at the Olympic trials she learned the power of a positive mindset. “ I was training alone without any teammates, and at times I got very lonely. I learned to have a positive mindset and keep my eyes on the goal: Olympic trials,” Straub said. Abi learned that she shouldn’t count herself out. “ I definitely way into the Olympic trials focused on doing well, but not really expecting to make the team since it was only my first trials,” Knapton said. Once Knapton began competing at the trials she realized she had more potential than she showed. “ I tend to doubt myself when I shouldn’t, and need to show up with more confidence, more ‘I belong here’ rather than ‘they belong here’ mindset,” Knapton explained.
Straub is currently a student at the University of Notre Dame. She recently graduated with a major in Science Preprofessional and a minor in compassionate care in medicine. “I am now a graduate student at ND, pursuing a masters of science in management. I graduate and become a double domer in May 2022,” Straub said.
This year, Knapton graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a Bachelor of Art in psychology. Knapton also had three minors; one in Humanities in Medicine, Sociology, and Gerontology. “My main goal is to go to nursing school and one day be a Nurse Practitioner,” Knapton said.
Straub is taking a fifth year of eligibility to compete again for Notre Dame along with pursuing a masters of science in management. Straub said she does not plan on competing in the Olympic trials in 2024. Knapton will also be completing her COVID year of eligibility at Rutgers. Since the season was heavily impacted by COVID, the NCAA granted winter sports another year of eligibility. Knapton is moving to New Brunswick, New Jersey in a few weeks to begin diving there. “I am really excited about this because they have a platform facility I can train on while Nebraska doesn’t. Since platform is my main event, I’m hoping that helps me refine my skill while I continue training for the next Olympic trials in 2024. Somewhere in between all of that I’ll try to go to nursing school,” Knapton said.
“My advice to my fellow female athletes is to never doubt yourself. You have so much more power and influence than you realize. Use your skills to better the world. Always have a smile on your face because playing a sport you love is truly soul enriching,” Straub said.
Knapton shared that there were many times in her athletic career where she felt like quitting, this could have been from a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year. “It is normal to feel that way, but do not let the bad days, weeks, or months win. If you love what you do, keep going. The struggles you face will only make you stronger,” Knapton said.