NewsSteele Johnson

Brandon Loschiavo Takes Command On the Tower At Diving Trials

by Karen Rosen

Brandon Loschiavo competes at day three of the Diving U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 8, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana.


INDIANAPOLIS – Brandon Loschiavo is staking a claim as a worthy successor to fellow Purdue Boilermakers David Boudia and Steele Johnson atop the 10-meter platform. In March, Loschiavo won the NCAA title in the event, six years after Johnson and 12 years after Boudia.

Loschiavo has a comfortable lead following the preliminaries and semifinals at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Diving while plunging into the same pool where Boudia and Johnson went 1-2 to make the 2016 Olympic squad. They also teamed up to win the Olympic silver medal.

“It’s massive shoes to fill, but I do my best to try to follow suit,” said Loschiavo, noting that he strives to “make all Purdue alumni proud.”

Loschiavo, who just turned 24, scored 956.60 points Tuesday, followed by Jordan Windle with 906.10. David Dinsmore, who was third at the 2016 trials, is again in third place (827.70) ahead of 14-year-old phenom Joshua Hedberg (804.50), who was the only diver awarded a 10 in the semifinals.

Results are cumulative and the final six dives will be contested on Saturday night. Only two divers will advance to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Krysta Palmer holds the lead in the women’s 3-meter springboard competition with a substantial cushion after 10 dives. She has 655.15 points followed by Hailey Hernandez, who is locked in a tight duel with Palmer’s synchro partner, Alison Gibson, for second place. Hernandez has 593.90 points, with Gibson scoring 591.45.

Pre-meet favorite Sarah Bacon, who was second in the World Cup last month in Tokyo, had an inconsistent day and is in fifth place with 568.00 points behind Kristen Hayden with 568.95.

Loschiavo scored 94.35 points on his final dive, a forward 4 ½ somersaults from the tuck position. 

“I try to think of each of these competitions as a one-dive contest six times,” said Loschiavo, who led by 43.75 points after the preliminaries. “And so I had 12 of those today, and I was pretty happy with the end result.”

Of course, Boudia is a towering presence in the sport, though in the past couple of years he has shifted from platform to springboard. Boudia won the 2012 Olympic gold medal and the bronze in 2016, while also earning Olympic silver and bronze medals in synchro.

Loschiavo, who placed eighth at the 2019 world championships in platform, has studied film of Boudia’s old competitions and has also been inspired watching him practice in person at Purdue.

He said he was particularly struck by “how tenacious he is when he’s competing. I just try to follow his lead.”

But it’s Johnson who has had an even greater impact on Loschiavo. They were synchro partners in 2017 when Loschiavo went to his first major international competition, the 2017 world championships in Budapest, where they placed sixth.

On Tuesday afternoon, Johnson announced on Instagram that he was pulling out of the Trials because of a foot injury that has plagued him for six years. Johnson was attempting to qualify for Team USA in synchronized 3-meter springboard with Boudia. They were in third place after the semifinals on Monday, but only one team will qualify for Tokyo and Johnson and Boudia had a lot of ground to make up.

Boudia is still expected to compete in the individual men’s 3-meter event, which starts Wednesday.

Johnson wrote that he can barely walk, which made diving incredibly difficult.

“I’ve endured 2 failed surgeries, years on and off of crutches and have pushed as hard as I physically can,” Johnson wrote, “but unfortunately my foot is in too much pain to continue competing at Trials. I’ve been through hell and back with my foot and desperately need this pain to stop.”

Loschiavo said he sent Johnson at text when he heard the news. 

“Explaining how grateful I am for him,” Loschiavo said. “He kind of jump-started my career. I’m truly grateful for him as a teammate, as a synchro partner and someone I’ve always looked up to. It hurts my heart to see something like that happen to him.”

While that page has now turned in Team USA diving, there is a new chapter headed by Joshua Hedberg, who showed enormous poise in at trials. At 14, he is the minimum age to compete at the Olympic Games.

“That young man is absolutely incredible,” Loschiavo said, “and he himself is inspiring to me to watch. I’m excited to see what he can do come 2024. I’ll be rooting for him.”

But Loschiavo is reserving 2021 for himself.

Jordan Windle, the 2019 NCAA champion on platform from Texas, is doing double duty and is expected back at the pool within 12 hours to compete in 3-meter springboard. He said his mindset changes mentally and physically for the other event. 

“It’s less strain on the body, but I think technique-wise, it’s a little more rigorous,” said Windle, adding that he prefers 3-meter. “It’s just a lot more fun for me, and I never was a fan of heights.”

In women’s 3-meter, Alison Gibson led the first four rounds of the preliminaries, then Hailey Hernandez pulled ahead on the fifth and final dive. Krysta Palmer moved up from fourth place into second with her signature last dive, the 5154 B, a forward 2 ½ somersaults with two twists from the pike position. She was the only female diver to attempt it, with most doing only one twist.

Palmer then surged into the lead on the first dive of the semifinals. Her third dive was her best, scoring 78 points – including a 9.5 from one judge – on a reverse 2 ½ somersaults from the pike position.

“Ohhhhh -- that one gave me chills,” Palmer said. “My parents and my grandma and my aunt and a friend of mine are up in the audience. It was just such a great feeling to come out of the water and I knew I’d done a pretty good dive. To look up there and see them just so happy, cheering so loudly and standing up on their feet is just the best feeling.”

Palmer and Gibson lead the synchronized 3-meter synchro event, and that final on Thursday night will be their next outing with the individual final Saturday night.

“Alison and I, we sat together both prelims and semifinals today, so really I just feel like we have such a strong connection,” Palmer said. “Whether we’re competing with each other or in the same event with each other, we’re still supportive and we just had a great time. We were saying good job to each other after each dive, and now I think we’re both excited to get back to the synchro event because we just have so much fun together.”

Hernandez, 18, has had a stellar junior career and is a two-time senior national champion in 2016 and 2018.

“I’m feeling absolutely amazing,” she said. “I’m just overwhelmed with emotion, but know we’ve still got a long way to go.”

Her brother, Nathaniel, 23, is competing in the men’s 3-meter springboard Wednesday.

Karen Rosen has covered every Summer and Winter Olympic Games since 1992 for newspapers, magazines and websites. Based in Atlanta, she has contributed to since 2009.
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