"It hurts pretty bad when you land wrong," said Stanford diver Kristian Ipsen, explaining the difficulties of his sport's platform event. "When I was younger, I popped one of my ribs out, and it was really painful. But it's worth it when you land a good one."
Diving is one physically brutal sport, particularly from the 10-meter platform, where athletes reach extreme velocity before hitting the water. But Ipsen is reaping the rewards that come with immense talent and eight years of arduous training. The Cardinal sophomore captured two NCAA individual titles last week before forgetting one of his championship plaques at the team hotel, a perfectly excusable faux pas considering the fact his Olympic bronze medal, just eight months old, is resting safely at home.
There's just too much hardware to keep track of these days, and it's all a testament to the physical work Ipsen has invested in his sport during the past decade.
"Diving training [entails] a lot of the same actions that you repeat over and over and over," he said. "There's the dry board, the trampoline, and a ton of abs. You have to be flexible as diver, but you also have to maintain quick and twitchy muscles. It's a tough balance."
That balancing act becomes considerably more difficult when a diver must juggle training between a wide variety of the sport's disciplines. That's exactly what Ipsen has done. On top of successfully defending his 3-meter springboard title of a year prior, he nailed the NCAA championship in the 1-meter event this season. He has simultaneously started to come into his own on the 10-meter platform, whose towering take-off point completely completely transforms the nature of the beast.
Last season, Ipsen finished 10th in the platform event after barely training for it. But this year, he reincorporated the ultimate aerial display into his training regimen and nabbed a 2nd-place NCAA finish to go along with his two springboard titles.
"[Platform] is an adrenaline rush," he explains. "The fear factor that it brings is something that I missed from the sport."
Thankfully, Ipsen's coach Rick Schavone is able to turn on a bubble system at Avery Aquatic Center's state-of-the-art diving well that eases a diver's impact with the water during training. Compressed air floats to the surface to ease the pain of a poorly executed platform dive, a dreaded yet unavoidable part of the early training process.
As Ipsen became more comfortable with his 10-meter platform routine this past season, Schavone turned the bubbles off during training. As tranquil, unforgiving water waited below, Ipsen's technique mitigated any potential painful effects.
Consider adrenaline restored, and versatility further enhanced as he grabbed a stranglehold of his sport at the college level and combined with Stanford swimmer David Nolan to lead the Cardinal squad at the meet. Ipsen's success came just eight months after he won bronze in London alongside his partner Troy Dumais through the synchronized diving event, yet another uniquely difficult exhibition of aerial communication.
"[The Olympics] were kind of strange, because I had trained so long for them, and I actually only competed in London for 45-50 minutes," Ipsen said. "It was a strange, fun, and surreal two weeks."
Now, it's time to look forward to a whole new slew of potential successes. Ipsen still has two more years remaining at Stanford and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games beckon.
"I'd love to go, especially with how great this past experience was in London," he said. "If I'm still feeling good and not hurt or anything, it would be tough to not go for the next one."
Turn on that bubble machine, coach. Kristian Ipsen is ready to push his limits even further.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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