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Diver comes to IU from across the world



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James Conor competes in the men's 1 meter diving during the meet against Auburn at Cousilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center. Rachel Meert and Rachel Meert Buy Photos

When James Connor visited IU for the first time, it was the middle of February 2014.

He had only heard of the school from now-freshman diver Jessica Parratto when the two competed together internationally.

Growing up in Australia, Connor was unfamiliar with U.S. colleges, but he knew he wanted to move here for an unrivaled training system not offered in Australia.

After visiting Louisiana State and Arizona State, he decided IU was the place for him.

“It was freezing cold and snowing, and I don’t know what it was that made me pick it even in all that, especially when I visited Arizona, and it was a lovely 40 degrees Celsius,” Connor said. “It was just too good to pass up.”

So Connor, 19 years old, left his life in Brisbane, Australia, and moved to ?Bloomington.

The freshman is one of five kids, with four sisters. Coming to America meant leaving his family behind, too.

His sisters, who were all gymnasts, were the original reason he got into diving. One of Connor’s older sisters made the switch to diving, so he decided to try it out.

“I guess I was just at that age where I was traveling back and forth in the car and decided I would give it a crack myself,” he said.

Connor grew up in Melbourne but has spent the last four years in Brisbane training at the Australian Institute of Sport. Just his mother moved with him to Brisbane.

Coming over here, I had visited for competitions twice in my life for a week at a time, but as far as taking the leap of faith to actually come over and relocate to America, yeah, that was pretty spontaneous,” he said.

Connor competed in his first collegiate meet on Saturday for IU and swept his events. He was first on both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard, but he’s primarily a platform diver.

His talent on the 10-meter platform earned him a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, competing for Australia. He was just 17 years old.

“It was surreal in a sense that it managed to make all seven or eight years of my training prior to that point completely worth it, while also inspiring me to go another four years and hopefully get back there in 2016,” Connor said.

Upon return from London, he wasn’t sure what the next step in his career would be. He didn’t compete for a high school team, so he began training on the ?springboard.

Connor said from a young age springboard had been his favorite, mostly because he was too afraid to be on the higher platforms.

Training on the springboard was also much easier on his body.

Connor dealt with injuries to both wrists, his back and had to have knee surgery, all because of the stress platform diving put on his body. He said that’s common for younger divers with muscles that are not fully developed.

He’s now completely healthy for the first time in his career.

“I’m in the best shape of my life,” Connor said. “I’m full fitness right now.”

This allows him to keep up with teammate Michael Hixon, one of his best friends on the team and someone Connor met while competing against him in recent years.

A couple months after committing to IU, Connor found out Hixon was transferring to IU from Texas, where he was a two-time national champion last year.

"(That) honestly made me 100 percent know that this was the right decision for me,” Connor said. “It’s nice when all those things fit into one.”

Connor said while everything is going well, it’s easy to forget he’s on the other side of the world.

For Connor, diving has always been an individual sport. It’s nice to now have a team as a constant support system, he said.

His team has become a second family.

But still, he said he owes everything to his family back home.

“I really just wanted to make sure all the hardships, sacrifices that they faced behind the scenes on top of any that I made personally, I wanted to make sure that was almost repaid in a way,” he said.

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