By Nicole Skow
For En Tien Huang China, Malaysia, Rome, Barcelona, Germany, Singapore and Japan all have something in common other than being countries. Huang, better known as Grace Huang to the students of Nevada, has dived in every single one of those countries.
Since Huang was eight years old, she knew exactly what she wanted to do when she was older: dive in the Olympics. At 22 years old, she is well on her way to fulfilling that dream. At 14 years old, Huang qualified for the 2005 World Championships in Canada and has attended the championships ever since.
“Every time I went to World Championships (I loved) the feeling of the competition,” Huang said. “It’s very fun and very exciting. “
This past summer Huang traveled to Barcelona, Spain to compete in another World Championships. For 10 days, she competed against professional divers from around the world who have dedicated their lives to the sport. The trip was about more than competing. It was a chance for Huang to learn from the “flawless” divers as she describes them.
“It was an amazing experience,” the diver said. “(By) competing with a lot of world class divers, I learned a lot. When (coach Jian Li You and I) came back, we kind of developed a new technique on my dive, so I improved a lot. I’m really happy about it.”
Diving coach Jian Li You, who traveled to Barcelona with Huang, echoed similar sentiments about their time spent on the road.
“It’s a good learning experience for her because she’s trying to make the 2016 Olympics,” Li You said. “At this meet, it’s all Olympic divers there, so she sees the different work.”
Barcelona offered Huang more than just diving. Huang was able to catch up with her friends from around the globe in between rounds and get out and tour the city. One of the best parts of the trip was that she got to catch up with her best friend from China that she used to train with when she was younger.
Huang is ready for the Olympics. This year is the last year she will be able to compete at the college level, but she has already planned out the next couple years. She has one more year left in school, during which she will continue to train with the team and not compete. Huang will graduate from Nevada in May 2015, which means she will have one full year to dedicate all of her time to training for the Olympic trials along with the games themselves. Li You already knows exactly what Huang needs to work on in order to qualify for Rio 2016.
“(Huang) needs to get the 3-meter front three and a half pike consistent,” she said. “Then she has that done, she will make it pretty easy.”
After competing for so long, some people might burn out and stop competing; it becomes too much for them. This is not the case for Huang. She admits that the most challenging thing for her is how exhausted she gets over the season, but her mental strength helps her power through those moments of weakness.
“(When you’re exhausted), that’s the hardest time to come here and focus on practice because you just want to go home, lay in bed and just rest,” she said. “I can’t because I have to work hard for the next meet or competition.”
Huang thought about quitting only when she was just beginning because she was scared of a peculiar dive. Other than that, Huang has been nonstop. The competition never bores her; it drives her to continue to compete and become even better.
“The competition is my biggest motivation to practice harder and harder, because after every competition, you improve a little bit more,” the senior diver said. “I’m 22 years old (and) I’ve improved so much. There’s a very big difference.”
As Huang moves up and prepares to compete in the Olympics, she has no intention of hiring a new coach. In her home country of Taiwan, they cycled through coaches faster than they could supply them. Huang explained that she and her team would have a coach for four months, then not be able to practice for two months. With new coaches came new dives, and her technique changed and became inconsistent.
With Li You, Huang said “she’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever met.” She explained that Li You knew exactly what was wrong with her dive,
and how to fix it, since the first day of practice. Li You and Huang have connected on a level that possibly rivals the likes of Michael Phelps and Bob Bowman.
“I learned so much from her,” Huang said. “I gained so much confidence from her as well. I definitely want to stick with her forever.”
Nicole Skow can be reached at email@example.com.