Utah Olympic Park opens new high diving facility
The facility is the first in the United States
After the countdown from the crowd hit zero, Owen Weymouth effortlessly dove off the platform, falling 90 feet while twisting in the air before hitting the water with a small splash. The crowd cheered as he swam out of the pool.
“I think there’s a level of craziness that you have to be as a human, but to really get up there and do a safe and good dive, you have to just have a very good level of mind control,” Weymouth said. “We call it a sport where it’s 90% mental, and obviously you have to be very strong to hit those impacts, but you tend not to go up there unless you’re strong enough.”
The performance was part of the opening day festivities of the new high diving facility at Utah Olympic Park. The park partnered with the International High Diving Institute to build a new platform on the side of the freestyle skiing pool. The facility is the first high diving training facility in the United States.
“I didn’t think this day would come,” said Ellie Smart, International High Diving Institute CEO and professional diver. “I’m on cloud nine right now. It’s incredible to see this come to life and to have so many incredible people here supporting it.”
The facility has nine takeoff points ranging from 3 meters (10 feet) to 27 meters (90 feet) and is the only one in the world with platforms increasing by 2.5 meters to help divers work up to the high dives. It will offer an hour-and-a-half-long high diving experience that helps participants work their way up to dives as high as 12.5 meters (41 feet) as well as camps and a club team. Currently, the plan is for the facility to be open until late September.
Smart started out as a regular diver and earned a spot on the diving team at the University of California, Berkeley. After college she tried cliff diving for the first time and it instantly clicked for her. Smart has been high diving ever since and even placed 10th in the women’s high diving event at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships.
The challenge for her and other high divers, though, was the lack of a place to train. No other facility has a platform higher than 10 meters – half the height of the jump in the women’s event. Smart would train by working on her dives one half at a time. It was prohibitive for both her training and for recruiting new divers. She was often flying to places like England, China and Austria to train on actual high diving platforms.
“You’re not going to pay for an international flight to go see if you like something,” Smart said. “But to be able to have it here in our home country where we have so many athletes in an acrobatic discipline – whether it’s gymnastics, skiing, aerial skiers, trampolinists and divers – they all come together and make really good high divers.”
Weymouth, as well as the rest of the high diving scene, hopes that high diving will be added to the Olympic program soon, but only time will tell.
“I’ve been to two world championships where we’re right next to regular diving, and obviously they have the Olympic Games,” he said. “And we would love to join them, hopefully by Paris 2024 and if not by LA 2028.”
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