By Brandon Cruz
When it comes to collegiate sports, the more accolades you can acquire, the better shot you have at making a name for yourself. Krysta Palmer earned Mountain West diver of the year and won three titles at the Mountain West Championships, which led her to be named a part of the Mountain West All-Conference team. Quite an impressive resume for a diver who has only been diving consistently for four years. Palmer’s hard work, dedication and perseverance towards her craft, have allowed her to achieve an immense amount of accomplishments, her biggest being a bid to the 2016 Olympic Trials
Entering toward the end of a practice, one would expect the team to begin slowing down. That’s not the case when it comes to the women’s swim and dive team. The atmosphere felt as if they were at the peak of their practice, putting in every ounce of sweat they had left in them. Although practice is supposed to end at 4 p.m., Palmer didn’t even stop to take a breath, as she continued to dive after hours. She appeared to relish the extra time she had to dive, taking in every tidbit of advice diving coach Jian Li You had to offer. Palmer’s remarkable attitude and willingness to put in endless effort are probably the key factors as to why You has never seen anyone as talented as Palmer in her lengthy coaching career. You has put three divers through to the Olympic Trials in her time as a coach, so when she says Palmer is unique she isn’t embellishing.
“The skill Krysta has would probably take others eight years to acquire,” You said.
Palmer started her diving career at 12, but quickly strayed away from it after a short four months. She acknowledged that she didn’t really like to be in the water, and that diving was so much different from gymnastics and trampoline. Her favorite part of gymnastics was how “powerful,” it was, so at that point in her life, she didn’t like the “gracefulness” diving embodied. With all of these thrilling sports in Palmer’s back pocket, one can assume she is the epitome of an adrenaline junkie.
“Growing up I did a lot of dirt biking, quading, hiking, snowboarding and basically anything outdoors that gave me adrenaline,” Palmer said.
It comes as no surprise that she decided to continue practicing gymnastics and focused an allotted amount of her time towards trampoline. Sadly, Palmer’s promising trampoline career came to a screeching halt, when she tore her ACL, MCL, LCL and meniscus in her right knee, and shortly after, tore her ACL in her right knee again. This caused her to miss her chance at qualifying for the trampoline Olympic Trials, and left her in an awkward position of where to go next.
As disappointed as Palmer was, she persevered in the hard times. After rehabilitating her knee and fighting through a hip injury.
“I was in a transition phase of whether or not I should go back to trampoline,” Palmer said. “But when I finally made the transition to diving, it was easier because trampoline gave me a great sense of timing, strength, gracefulness and awareness, and then I learned the beauty of the sport, which allowed me to transfer that to diving.”
Her decision to switch to diving came about due to a friend she knew from high school that used to dive. Palmer exudes daredevil like qualities because of her willingness to try everything.
“We’d go to a pool down in Gardnerville and he would show me a trick, I’d kind of do the foundations of that trick and then he’d say, try it, go for it!” Palmer said.
There aren’t many people willing to throw themselves into a pool off a diving board, let alone perform tricks while in mid-air. After Palmer began to progress, her friend recommended that she should attempt to dive for coach You, preaching that she is one of the best coaches in the world and that there was a spot on the team. She heeded her friend’s advice, and was eventually rewarded with a spot on the team, and a great deal of relief. Unknowingly to Palmer and the rest of the world, this would become the smallest achievement she would earn on her path to stardom.
Palmer was undoubtedly an underdog when she took sixth place at nationals, which qualified her for the 2016 Olympic Trials. While Palmer was at nationals, coach You told her that if she reaches the top 12 for day two, that’s a big compliment for her level.
Palmer did what she does best, and blew these mediocre expectations out of the water. She ended up ranking second in two categories; platform diving and the 3-meter dive. When asked about her feelings towards the Olympic Trials, Palmer stated she is excited and working to further develop the basics of diving. You is confident in Palmer’s ability to perform well under pressure.
“Under pressure she has so much fun, and that makes me relaxed,” You said.
Krysta Palmer’s qualification for the Olympic Trials was not only huge for her, the community and her team, but most importantly her parents. Her mother Vicki has been fighting breast cancer, and prior to be diagnosed, her father, Mitch, was in a severe motorcycle accident. Upon hearing the news of Palmer’s qualification, Palmer says her mother nearly dropped the phone and her father was pushed to tears. With the support of her parents, team and community, Palmer has all the tools necessary to make it on the biggest stage of her career.
Brandon Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.