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Q&A: Head Coach Mark Bradshaw Talks Olympic Diving
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 08/09/2012
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Aug. 9, 2012

Arizona State head coach Mark Bradshaw competed in diving for the United States in the 1988 Seoul Olympic games and was the next diver to compete after fellow American Greg Louganis imfamously hit his head on the diving board. Bradshaw also returned to the games in 2004 and 2008 to coach Sun Devil Joona Puhakka as he competed for Finland. With Sun Devil Riley McComick competing on Friday and Saturday on the men's 10 meter platform, sat down with Bradshaw to talk about his own Olympic career and what Sun Devil fans should look for while watching Riley compete.

Q: What should fans watch for during the diving competition?

Bradshaw: It can be confusing because it gets complicated and goes so fast. But at this level the athletes are so close together in there skill level and what they can do, it really comes down to the finite ideas and really even comes down to the individual judge and what their preferences are. The basics are the take off, off the diving board or platform. Does the diver look controlled? How is the dynamic, are they high in the air? The diver’s distance from the diving board. Are they too far out or too close? Their flight through the air; was their form good? Most notably is the entry, because it is the last thing and is probably the easiest to see, and that’s what it comes down to because everybody is so similar and it is probably the skill that is the difference maker between the divers who medal and those who don’t.  That goes right into the verticality of it, going straight in verses being a little over rotated or under rotated and the very clean entry where there is hardly any splash.

Q: What should fans watch for when Riley McCormick dives?

Bradshaw: Platform diving you go to the next level in entry. There is a greater chance for no splash because you have a lot of speed. In diving it is called the ‘rip entry’ because when the diver enters the water it sounds like someone has just torn a sheet of paper and no splash and especially off the platform. The guys in Riley’s event are doing some incredible dives. It is just crazy the skill level up there and if you do that with a great entry you’ll get great scores plus you’ll have a high degree of difficulty.

Specifically in looking for things from Riley, he has great form. His technique is very good. Some of the guys he will be competing against will have some more degree of difficulty, but they might not have as great of form as Riley or even technique. Riley has got to rely on precision because he does have a little bit lower degree of difficulty. Precision for him is just that vertical clean entry but with his form he should get a little bit more in the score category from each individual judge so that is probably the game plan he has set. He is not going to wow the crowd like these guys doing from four and a halves or inward four and a halves, which are the newest dives being done up there. He takes a little bit more of the risk out of his program tries to hone in on the precision aspect of it.

Q: What is it like as a coach watching your divers compete at the Olympic level? 

Bradshaw: That is pretty special. It is strange that this is the first Olympics since Sydney that I have actually been at home watching them on T.V., which has been fun in itself. It definitely is special because you recruit kids into the program to see them get to that goal of the Olympic games. So helping them and being a part of that is awesome. Having experience as both a coach and an athlete I know what it feels like, what it means. So it’s great for them. Great recognition, great for their achievement.

Q: How did you get started in the sport of diving?

Bradshaw: Luck. Just crazy circumstance. I happened to live somewhat close to our local pool and the neighborhood kids and I did a lot of athletic stuff together. Out of all the kids there were two of us that kind of gravitated toward the diving boards and just do whatever, try and teach ourselves stuff. We were doing that one evening and one of the lifeguards suggested that we should take diving lessons. We were like “Wow, okay.” They gave us a flyer on it, we asked our parents, and they signed us up for the lessons. Really, one thing led to another and we started the lessons and it kind of grew and we just sort of kept going with it. I was probably just very average to start with but I kind of had that daredevil spirit in me and you have to have that as a diver.

Sun Devil Head Coach Mark Bradshaw competing
the US Olympic Diving team in 1988. 

Q: When did you start taking diving seriously and realize that you could make it to the Olympics?

Bradshaw: I developed a little bit more and some of these dives that were pretty difficult for me to do all of the sudden became very easy.  Just something clicked and I got the experience of winning for the first time and it wasn’t just about winning but I did very well, I executed my dives and that just lit a fire under me. I just thought it was the greatest thing, people just patting you on the back and it was the full that fed the fire so to speak. That led me to going to a lot of junior national meets and getting beat a lot and that further fed the fuel –“I’ve got to do better.” I was a champion of my state and the region but going to the big meet I was going to compete against guys, who had been diving a bit longer, had already been diving with great coaches, college coaches.  As I got into high school, you start looking at colleges so it was about that time through high school that I was thinking diving was something I could do at the next level, both at college and maybe in the Olympic games too.

Q: Was competing in the Olympics in 1988 one of the biggest diving moments in your career?

Bradshaw: Only in name, the Olympic name because it is the Olympics and the perceived reasoning that you are there for a special occasion and you’re in a village with a bunch of other athletes. But really it is just like a World Championships or a World Cup or maybe even a Grand Prix. It is just a name. It ramps up the pressure. That’s what I experienced, I really felt like I was talking the right way while I was preparing for the games up there, saying “ Ah this is going to be fun, this will be exciting. It’s just another meet, another contest,” yet I got a little bit over pumped up for it and probably a little to nervous about it and it affected my performance but that’s the Olympics.

Q: How was it different participating in the Olympics later as a Coach in 2004 & 2008? 

Bradshaw: My regret from my Olympic games is that I don’t remember much about it. I didn’t take it all in, I didn’t sit there and enjoy the moment, and just go out there and do the best you can and when it’s all over then you see where you finish, not get so honed in on place and I have to do this and I have to do that. Those are the types of things that put undue pressure; those are the things that I, from a coaching standpoint, try to impart. It is much easier in one way to stand on the sidelines as a coach and do that but it is difficult, comparatively to coaching, to competing it is so difficult to watch.  

I think in both cases in 2004 and 2008 I was there with Joona [Puhakka] and with all my athletes I try to learn from my experiences that I have had and try to help mold the individual, in this case Joona, through my experiences, and my knowledge. Not only my knowledge of diving and skill, but when you get to the competition like that you have done everything you can do and it is basically just fine tuning and in Joona’s case, keeping really on top of his game and feeling good about his diving and stuff like that. But my biggest words to all my athletes, from experiences, are that it is just another meet and enjoy it. At least when you are competing you are in control of what you can do and when you are coaching you just want your athlete, and in Joona’s case, I wanted him to do so well for himself and it is that desire that you are not in control of that makes it tough.

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