Despite being a late bloomer in diving, Krysta Palmer has reached the top of the sport.
The Doulas High and Nevada Wolf Pack alum officially became an Olympian on Thursday night after her and partner Alison Gibson finished first in the 3-meter synchronized dive at the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis, punching their ticket to Team USA's Tokyo Games roster.
"I didn’t start diving until I was 20 years old," Palmer said after getting her Olympic ring from 2000 gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. "When I was young as a gymnast, I remember watching the Olympic Games where she was competing, and I was just amazed. She has been an inspiration and idol to me all through my career and to come back and show everybody that anything is possible. "
Palmer, who turns 29 on Sunday, is the seventh Olympian in Nevada swimming and diving history and the first to represent the U.S. She and Gibson entered Thursday's finals with a big lead after strong preliminary and semifinal rounds. They also breezed through the finals after taking a 21-point lead into Thursday night's action.
Throughout the final round, Palmer and Gibson consistently hit their mark, ending the competition with a cumulative score of 899.82. Compared to other pairs in the competition, Palmer and Gibson’s list had a higher degree of difficulty in part thanks to their newly added Forward 2 1/2 Somersault 2 Twist Pike (5154B). This 3.4 degree of difficulty dive is rarely performed by female divers individually and the pair is currently the only female synchro team with it in their list.
Palmer, now a volunteer assistant for the Wolf Pack, and Gibson beat second-place Sarah Bacon and Kassidy Cook by 28.32 points and third-place Samantha Pickens and Carolina Sculti by 95.64 points. Only the top team in synchro qualifies for the Olympics.
"My first thought was I have to get to Krysta," Gibson said. "As soon as I hit the water, I thought to myself, 'I think that this was good enough,' and just wanted to give Krysta a hug. We’ve been through a lot and competed together for a long time and to finally have this moment is just so incredible.”
Palmer, who grew up in Carson City, first dreamed of becoming an Olympian as a gymnast. She then turned to trampoline but had her promising career in that sport spoiled by multiple torn ACLs. At age 20, Palmer walked into UNR's Lombardi Rec to join the club team of Nevada diving coach Jian Li You. She eventually made the Wolf Pack's roster and was a two-time Mountain West diver of the year. You remains her coach.
Palmer will aim for individual Olympic qualification on Saturday night after leading the 3-meter dive after the semifinal round. The top two in that event move on to Tokyo.
Palmer joins the following Wolf Pack swimming and diving alums to advance to the Olympics: Natalia Pulido (Spain 1992), Lise Mackie (Australia, 1992-96), Chavisa Thaveesupsoonthorn (Thailand, 2004-08), May Ooi (Singapore 1992), Limin Liu (China, 1996-2000) and Diana Sokolowska (Poland, 2012).
3-meter synchro results
1. Alison Gibson/Krysta Palmer, 899.82
2. Sarah Bacon/Kassidy Cook, 871.50
3. Samantha Pickens/Carolina Sculti, 804.18
4. Hailey Hernandez/Emily Grund, 784.56
5. Kristen Hayden/Margo O'Meara, 764.10
6. Daria Lenz/Charlye Campbell, 746.76
7. Kaylee Bishop/Avery Worobel, 702.90