By STEVE WISEMAN
A dream that began as a child watching Kerri Strug at the Atlanta Olympics came true for Duke’s Abby Johnston on Thursday night.
Johnston and partner Kelci Bryant won the 3-meter synchronized diving competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Federal Way, Wash., to claim their spots in this summer’s London Olympic Games.
The 22-year-old Johnston teamed with Bryant, a 2008 Olympian from Chatham, Ill., in the two-person synchronized event. They edged Kassidy Cook and Christina Loukas, 956.40-955.98 to gain the lone synchronized diving team spot on the women’s U.S. diving squad.
“It’s the most incredible feeling,” Johnston said in a phone interview Friday morning. “I’m still in awe and total shock. I’m literally speechless and my knees are weak over it. It’s a dream come true. It really is.”
In the men’s competition, Chapel Hill”s Nick McCrory, already a two-time NCAA champion for Duke, also clinched his first Olympic berth on Thursday night.
He and partner David Boudia from Purdue won the men’s 10-meter platform synchronized diving competition and will be the lone U.S. team competing in London in that event.
The duo totaled 1,387.66 points in the final, completing a wire-to-wire victory after having led the semifinal and preliminary rounds. McCrory and Boudia did the two toughest dives of the final, with none of the other seven teams attempting anything close to their degree of difficulty.
Johnston said she watched Strug compete in gymnastics during the 1996 games and began telling everyone she would be in the Olympics herself one day.
But she and Bryant had to survive a serious challenge from Cook and Loukas to win Thursday night. Near-perfect execution on their final dive of the night clinched it.
Having seen their four-point lead shrink to 1.32 points, Johnston and Bryant had the advantage of diving after Cook and Loukas.
Loukas and Cook scored 64.94 points with their dive, which was a forward 2 1/2 Somersault 1 Twist Pike.
Johnston and Bryant orchestrated a Back 2 1/2 Somersault Pike. It had a 3.0 degree of difficulty, just as Loukas and Cook’s final dive.
Needing at least 77.1 points to seal the Olympic bid, Johnston and Bryant scored 77.4.
A 2011 NCAA champion in individual diving for Duke, Johnston took a year off from school to concentrate on making the Olympics for the first time.
In the moments before her final dive, she said that focus gave her peace.
“There was moment of, `Uh oh. What if?’” said Johnston, who is from Columbus, Ohio. “Then, I was just calm and I had a feeling that I could hit my dive and it would be over.”
While McCrory also has a great shot to make the Olympics in individual competition, Johnston said she is done with the Trails.
Sitting in 11th place out of the 12 finalists who were set to compete in Saturday’s individual 3-meter finals with two Olympic spots on the line, Johnston said she will sit out those finals.
She and her coach, Duke’s Drew Johansen, decided to rest her sore shoulder since her Olympic dream has been attained. Johnston said her shoulder has some inflammation.
“This has been a long competition,” Johnston said. “I was pretty tired. At this point, there is no point in pushing me into an injury if I’m already on the team.”
Article source: HeraldSun - Duke Sports