Every Wednesday, Shannon Kelly will sit down with a coach's wife, a former Wolf Pack athlete or a woman in the Northern Nevada community to have a conversation over a glass of wine (or whatever drink they choose). This week, she sat down with former Douglas High and Nevada diver and current Team USA diver, Krysta Palmer. They talked about her early athletic career in gymnastics, injuries, competing in Olympic trials and world events, and some of Krysta's hobbies, among other topics.
Competing at a young age
“I started when I was five years old," Krysta said. "My parents just saw me flipping all over the couches and jumping from one to the other and my grandma is actually the one that told my Mom, 'She’s going to be a gymnast.' My mom was a little nervous. She said, 'I don’t really think so, really?' My grandma was really the one who pushed my mom to get me into it, and that was at the age of five, so I was a young little tike.”
Fast forward seven years later, Krysta found a new love, trampoline.
“I had a knee injury and an ankle injury with gymnastics and I was coming back from one of my knee injuries and I came back into the gym and I was conditioning, still had a cast on, so I was just trying to get strong again so I could get back to it, and at the time we had somebody in the gym that was just jumping on trampoline," Krysta said. "We got a new trampoline at that time, and she was jumping so high and I had never seen trampoline as an event. It was so new at that time, and I had seen her and she said, 'Yeah I compete trampoline!' I didn’t even know it was an event.
"I’ve always loved trampoline, so my eyes were really peeled whenever she’d jump on the trampoline, and I was like 'I want to try that!' So I got into it and a conditioning program, one of the things that just sold me on trampoline is they do 10 bounces and they time it, so you try to get the highest time, you try to bounce as high as you can for those 10 bounces and they calculate the time that you get. That really sold me because I love to jump high. I ended up making the transfer after I came back and fully recovered from my knee injury and I’ve just loved it ever since.”
After battling multiple knee injuries, Palmer tore her ACL for the second time right before the 2010 world championships in France.
“I’ve always had the motto: 'Be stronger than you were before your injury,'" Krysta said. "That’s what's really helped me persevere. But I think going through that, it was heartbreaking to qualify for world championships (in France) and not be able to compete. I still got to go, and I still got to support the team and I was team cheerleader. I tried my hardest just to be there for everybody else at that time, but my heart was aching a little bit that I couldn’t compete, and I knew coming back from that, that I only had a little while before the Olympic trials and I was really wanting to try for the Olympics in trampoline at that time, and just injuries have gotten in the way with that. But God had a different plan that I didn’t even have for myself.
A new opportunity
Shortly after returning to the trampoline from her second ACL tear, Krysta retired from trampoline. Just when she thought her Olympic dreams were over, another opportunity came knocking on the door.
“I had a friend that knew the (diving) coach up at Reno, and he said, 'You should talk to Jian Li You," Krysta said. "'She is an amazing coach, she comes from China, she is the national team coach in China and she was a national team coach for Team USA at one point,' and I was like, 'Really? That would be something totally new.' At that point. it gave me a lot of excitement. I knew I had previous experience flipping and twisting, and jumping trampoline is a lot like springboard diving, so at that time it was just an exciting thought that I could get back to athletics, and now a whole new dream has developed into I was supposed to be competing this week at Olympic trials, but we’ll hold on another year.”
Palmer recalled meeting You for the first time.
“I remember stepping onto the pool deck," she said. "She was coaching somebody else on the dry board at the time, and I came up and kind of introduced myself and told her about the injuries I had and she said, 'Did you bring clothes to workout in?' and I said 'Yeah!' and she said, 'Go get them on and let’s go over to trampoline first because I know that’s where you came from.' I started to jump trampoline and she was amazed. I know her mind was spinning like, 'I can turn this into something.' So she had really expressed an interest in me coming back and training more with her, and I didn’t even know there was a chance to be on the college team really. I was just going to do club diving and have fun with it and within two months, she offered me a walk-on spot on the UNR diving team and that was in November and she wanted me on the team in January.”
Krysta is one of the most decorated divers in Nevada history. During her senior year, she was crowned the Ruth Russell award, earning All-Mountain West and NCAA All-American honorable mention honors and was named Mountain West Diver of the Year for the second year in a row. She took home three titles at the Mountain West championships her junior year, just to name of few of her accolades.
“It’s such a blessing to look back on that I found Jian Li as a coach because she is incredible, and I wouldn’t be the diver that I am today if it wasn’t for her," Krysta said. "I’ve learned so much from her. She’s really taught me to be a fighter. She is a tough coach and she has really shown me what hard work is. Through my career, I’ve really had to fight to become the best athlete that I can be. She is a great coach for me in that way.”
Suiting up for the Red, White and Blue
After competing in the 2016 Olympic trials, Krysta represented Team USA in the world championships in Hungary, her first international event, just a year later.
“It’s such a big honor," Krysta said. "I can’t relate it to anything else. It’s unbelievable how you feel when you step out there and come together as Team USA and walk into the pool deck together for the very first time and you just feel so honored. It’s a big blessing I think to have those opportunities and for me, I just try to do the best that I can for our team and for myself too and for God, that’s what I’m out there to compete for. It’s unbelievable.”
“I felt so intimidated walking in (to the world championships) because you see great dive after great dive, and world championships is the level of Olympic, it’s just not Olympics. So I guess it was a big learning lesson. That was my first one and I learned a lot. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I really did think, “do I deserve to be here? I’ve only been diving for four years at that point, and I qualified for one of the biggest competitions, but I learned a lot. I know now, if I qualify, I’ve earned my spot. I don’t want to put any more pressure on myself to do good because you already have enough pressure already, and if you’re looking around and thinking you’re not deserving to be there, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure."
Palmer tries to keep things simple in the biggest meets.
"Have fun," she said. "That's the only way I've been able to make it this far. You've got to have a balance of hard work and fun. That's something my dad has always told me throughout my athletic career: 'Don't forget what you do this for.' It's all hard work and grind, but you have to have fun at the same time, that's what it's about, those experiences, the journey that it consists of, all of that is memories for later so you might as well enjoy it while it's there and work hard, too."
Wine Wednesday with Krysta Palmer
- Training from home the last few months – 0:00
- Gymnastics career – 3:58
- Finding trampoline - 5:44
- Battling knee injuries – 7:20
- Discovering diving and meeting Jian Li You – 9:35
- What Krysta has learned about herself through diving - 13:30
- Coaching at Nevada – 14:40
- Competing at the 2016 Olympic trials – 15:35
- Competing at World Championships for the first time – 19:32
- Representing Team USA - 21:23
- Tokyo 2020 being postponed - 24:17
- Krysta’s hobbies – 27:55
- Krysta’s favorite things – 29:41