Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 15, 2012

Hoping to make a splash

Stanford's Ipsen, Krug eye Olympic berths at U.S. Team Trials

by Keith Peters

Stanford freshman Kristian Ipsen and Cardinal alum Cassidy Krug have spent countless hours together at Avery Aquatic Center under the watchful eye of Stanford diving coach Dr. Rick Schavone. The hard work has paid off with NCAA titles for each athlete.

Both divers will be together again starting this weekend, but the stakes will be much higher as both attempt to earn a trip to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.

Ipsen, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and Krug will be joined by Stanford grad Dwight Dumais and incoming Cardinal freshmen Lillian Hinrichs and Kelly Markle at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Federal Way, Wash. A field of approximately 120 of the nation's best divers will competing for 14 spots on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Diving Team.

"I'm so excited about the Trials," said Krug, a 10-time national champion and member of the U.S. National Team since 2005. "I hope to just go out and see what I can do. I think if I can do that, I'll make the Olympic team."

Action begins Sunday with the prelims of the synchro, an even where Ipsen and partner Troy Dumais are expected to challenge for an Olympic berth. Krug will begin her Olympic quest in the 3-meter individual on Tuesday. The final day of competition is June 24.

Ipsen is returning to the site where he won the 3-meter springboard title at the NCAA Championships in March, becoming the first male diver in school history to win that event and only the second ever to win an NCAA title.

Ipsen is a 24-time senior or junior national champion and considered perhaps the best U.S. Olympic prospect since Greg Louganis.

Ipsen also will compete in the 3-meter springboard event, along with the synchro — hoping to make the team in both.

"That's the goal right there," he said. (But) There are a lot of really good divers on the 3-meter individual event right now. I feel the Trials are going to be very interesting to see who actually makes the team individually."

As for the 3-meter synchro, which provides arguably his best chance to earn at trip to London?

"I feel like it's really helped my diving individually," Ipsen told Jason Devaney of NBC Olympics. "He (three-time Olympian Dumais) has helped me with the mental aspect of it because it's really difficult sometimes when the stands are packed and all eyes are on you to try and keep your cool — and not get too anxious or nervous in competition." He's given me tips to kind of deal with that, and also tips with my actual diving."

Ipsen and Dumais have won every 3-meter synchro event at the national level since 2009, and have 13 top-five finishes (including two victories) at international meets in the same time period.

Clearly, the duo is favored to spend the summer in London.

No male diver has entered Stanford with more promise than Ipsen, a 16-time junior national champion, eight-time senior national champion, three-time junior world champion, 2009 World Championships silver medalist in synchronized 3-meter, and 2010 World Cup silver medalist in synchronized 3-meter.

Schavone, who has mentored 89 All-Americans, said Ipsen has Louganis-type potential. No small claim, considering Louganis won four Olympic gold medals and five World Championships.

"Remember, when Greg dove, the Chinese weren't part of the picture," said Schavone, a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year. "Will he (Ipsen) ever dominate the Chinese? No. Will he ever win all those gold medals? Maybe, maybe not. But in this country, he could be dominating."

Ipsen is flattered to be compared to Louganis and never will forget their first meeting. It came during a camp in Indianapolis when he was 10.

"I was going for my second practice and lot of the older kids skipped it to go to an Indiana Hoosiers football game," Ipsen said. "Greg was at the camp and it was just him and me for about two hours. He actually got up on the 3-meter platform and was coaching and talking to me through each of my dives. It was a really cool moment."

How does Ipsen feel about the Louganis comparison?

"It's an honor," he said. "A lot of people kind of put us together because of the way we dive and our lines in the air. But if I even accomplish one-quarter of what he did in his career, I would be thrilled."

Schavone is grooming the 5-foot-7 Ipsen for the London 2012 Olympic Games, where he could qualify for individual or synchronized events.

"Our goal with him is to put him on the team this year and hopefully he can medal in the synchronized event," he said. "But in 2016, I'm going for a medal in the individual. He's definitely the most accomplished diver I've ever coached."

Ipsen is taking things one day and one dive at a time.

"The Olympics is a lot of pressure," said the 19-year-old Ipsen. "It's a really a small team. Of course, I would really, really like to make it. But in diving, anything can happen at the Trials. Hopefully, I can continue training and make the team. If not, I'm going to keep working for 2016."

The 26-year-old Krug, meanwhile, could be looking at her last Olympic Trials and shot at the Summer Games.

She attempted to make the 2004 Olympic team, but finished eighth in 3-meter. Krug bounced back and recorded several top-five results at national and international meets in the following years, and entered the 2008 Olympic season as a favorite to make the team. However, a back injury set her back six months before the Olympic Trials, and when she did return it was too late. She placed eighth and missed the team again.

Krug decided to step away from diving after 2008. She graduated from Stanford one year prior, so she got a job working as the marketing coordinator at the Stanford Alumni Association and started to live like any other post-graduate. But soon after, Krug realized she missed diving too much and knew she had to make one more run at making the Olympic team. She kept her job at Stanford and began working, once again, with Schavone in the fall of 2009. Her single focus was to compete for the U.S. in London.

Although Krug did not compete at the Athens Olympics in 2004, she was at the Games in a different role: a runner for NBC at the diving venue. Her mother Dorothy, who coaches diving at the Pitt Aquatic Club, had worked for NBC as a diving statistician at several Olympics, so she was able to help her daughter secure the position. Krug's duties included everything from going on coffee runs to helping coordinate interviews.

Now, the run to London 2012 is officially a Krug farewell tour — not only farewell to competition, but farewell to the quest for perfection. For Krug, it's the journey with an end goal: to be the best.

"I do love the sport," Krug said. "And I do have the right attitude. But I know why I'm doing this — to go to the Olympics and medal."

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