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Kelci Bryant: Aiming for New Heights

From Spring 2010 issue
Aiming for New Heights
Kelci Bryant hears plenty of wisecracks about making a big splash. “Technically we’re not supposed to make a splash at all, so I think they’re funny,” says Bryant, a sophomore on the Gopher diving team. Technicalities aside, Bryant—a transfer student from the University of Miami—has indeed made a big splash in her young Gopher career, winning back-to-back Big Ten diver-of-the-week honors in the first three weeks of this season.

See a video of the Kelci Bryant photo shoot on photographer Dan Marshall's Web site.
Editor's Note: Kelci Bryant won an Olympic silver medal in synchronized diving in 2012 (story here). She also won her second NCAA Title March 17, 2011 (story here)
Bryant is the first-ever Olympic diver to compete for the Gophers. In the 2008 Beijing games, she and diving partner Ariel Rittenhouse just missed winning a medal in the 3-meter synchronized springboard event. The fourth place finish was a bruising disappointment for Bryant, and it fueled her resolve to medal at the 2012 games in London. “Seeing fourth place was like a punch in the gut. I never thought of anything else happening besides bringing home a medal. It makes me work harder today,” she says.

And work she does. Perfecting a single dive requires perfecting many individual components, and to that end Bryant estimates that she performs 150 practice dives every day. For example, when she practices a reverse takeoff (spinning backward toward the board), over and over she focuses on bringing her legs up straight and positioning her chest forward. Such a regimen is demanding both physically and mentally. “One hundred fifty times a day can get to you,” she says. “Also, it can be scary trying new dives or being scared to hit the diving board.”

Bryant, who has not yet decided on a major, is frank about the challenges of managing the multiple demands of a college career. “You can’t slip up—you don’t have time,” she says. “I don’t go sledding because I might get hurt. I don’t ride a bike on campus because I don’t want to hit someone or have someone hit me.”

Bryant, who is from Chatham, Illinois, transferred to Minnesota in part because of Wenbo Chen, the Gophers’ new head diving coach. Previously the head coach of USA Diving in Indianapolis, Wenbo and the Bryant family go way back. He coached Kelci’s sister, Katie, to five national championships and started coaching Kelci on her ninth birthday. The relationship continued through Bryant’s high school years, including during the Olympic games.
“I know Wenbo can help me get a medal in 2012, which is the long-term goal, and I know he can help me bring home some NCAA titles in the three years I have left to compete [here],” Bryant says. “I can’t put into words how excited I am and how privileged I feel to be part of the Minnesota team.”

—Cynthia Scott

Photograph by Dan Marshall


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