This is Part 2 in a series on Olympic diving hopeful Steele Johnson as he competes at the 2012 US Diving Olympic Trials in Federal Way, WA.

By Ernie Geigenmiller

Steele Johnson. It’s not everyday a 16-year-old gets to compete in front of a national audience, but that’s what happens today at the King County Aquatic Center, host of the 2012 US Diving Olympic Trials.

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Steele Johnson at a recent competition. Photo courtesy of Michael Thomas.
Used with his permission.

But Steele Johnson, the 16-year-old diver from Carmel, Indiana, isn’t your everyday teenager. You see, he’s used to performing before national and international audiences. The 10-time national champion continues to impress audiences and peers with his amazing, spot-on performances, which are buoyed by his sheer drive and determination. These are traits that will carry the young man through perhaps his most challenging week of competition.

At stake is a spot on the 2012 US Olympic Diving Team. Some 120 US divers from all around the country have been practicing these last few days at King County Aquatic Center in preparation to earn one of those coveted spots.

Those of you reading this that are in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or beyond, can you imagine at 16 what is going on through this young man’s head? I can’t. Most people would run away from the sheer thought.

During my two previous interviews with Steele, he emphasized focus. “If I just focus on what needs to be done; if I do every dive the best I can I will earn a spot on that team,” he said. “I just have to get the job done. “

Focus. Determination. Confidence.

First up are the 10m platform synchro dives with partners Tobias Stanley and Dashiell Enos, who in their own right are amazing divers. The duos are performing two voluntary dives, and four optional dives. They will perform the 103B, 301B, 207C, 107B, 5253B and 407C dives.

What does that mean?

Well, it’s best to understand the components first.

According to USA Diving: Dives are described by their full name (e.g. reverse 3 1/2 somersault with 1/2 twist) or by their numerical identification (e.g. 5371D), or “dive number.” Twisting dives utilize four numerical digits, while all other dives use three. Specific dive numbers are not random — they are created by using these guidelines:

  1. All dives are identified by three or four digits and one letter.
  2. The first digit indicates the dive’s group: 1 = forward, 2 = back, 3 = reverse, 4 = inward, 5 = twisting, 6 = armstand
  3. In front, back, reverse and inward dives, a 1 as the second digit indicates a flying action. A ‘0’ indicates none. In twisting and armstand dives, the second digit indicates the dive’s group (forward, back, reverse).
  4. The third digit indicates the number of half somersaults.
  5. The fourth digit, if applicable, indicates the number of half twists.
  6. The letter indicates body position: A = straight, B = pike, C = tuck, D = free.

Pretty technical stuff.

For his individual 10m platform dives, Steele will perform six other dives, as well. These include: 5253B, 207C, 107B, 6245D (this is the handstand, with a 3.6 degree of difficulty), 307C (with a 3.3 degree of difficulty) and the 407C.

To translate this, for example, the 107B is a forward dive with 3 ½ somersaults in a pike position.

Piece of cake, right?

He only makes it look easy. This is what he trains for six days a week. This is his job. And he’s darn good at it.

Focus. Determination. Confidence.

Steele Johnson, bottom, and Tobias Stanley, at a recent competition.

Steele’s Friends Speak Out

His best friend, Jake Smith, says Steele looks at diving as his job – a job for which he has an intense passion.

“He’s a very determined person,” said Smith. “Diving is his total passion, and he’s completely committed to it.”

Several others from Carmel have said the same thing.

Corina Redmon, one of Steele’s church youth leaders said: “He has a confidence in himself, but is not arrogant. Steele and his coach feel they’re going to accomplish this.”

Smith says Steele looks at this as his job, and plans to get the job done. “I really feel he’ll do this,” he added.

As for Steele himself, he told me on the eve of opening day: “I’m feeling ready to go.”

The competition opens at 3 pm PDT with the women’s synchro performances, which will be followed by the men’s synchros.

Showtime.

If Steele has any doubts he’s not showing it. He has an entire church and community sending prayers his way. And, it goes way beyond that — but that’s for another article.

“We all pray Steele will be focused,” said Redmon. “He has our full support.”

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Steele Johnson did well at the Pan American Games in Colombia.

After the intensity of the moment fades, and after competitors dry off and put on their street clothes, Steele will return to the normalcy of being a normal teen.

Well, kinda.

My guess is he’ll turn on his handy camera to videotape the last part of the day’s events – and sign off with a polite “goodnight.”

Since May, the Olympic hopeful records some of the most mundane aspects of his life – and manages to make it funny. His uncle, Jack Lugar, just shakes his head. “Yes, that’s our Steele. He’s a great kid! He has a lot of talent.”

He has dedicated himself to taping every day of his life for 365 days. My third son, Jordan, told me: “Steele says nothing better than anybody I know. He’s hilarious!”

A budding second career? Perhaps. But for now, we’re just focusing on the Olympic Trials.

He’s ready. Are you?

The next article, Part 3, will focus on Steele Johnson, the son, the friend, and the person. Diving is a major part of his life, but there’s a whole other side. It’s actually quite remarkable, too.

 

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