An American flag scarf draped around her neck, Amy Cozad peered up at her family from the pool deck as her freckled face began to turn red. Cozad isn’t normally one to show emotion, performing dive after dive with poise and a quiet confidence.
This time she couldn’t help it. Her eyes welled up with tears.
“Are you proud of me?” she said, breaking into a smile.
On the wall to her left read the names of all the U.S. Olympians to come before her. She grew up in Indianapolis, trained here for as long as she can remember. She dove her first dive off that springboard.
And now, “Amy Cozad” will be the next name painted in blue on that white wall.
Cozad and her synchro partner Jessica Parratto, both IU divers, punched their ticket to Rio on Wednesday night with a commanding win in the 10-meter synchro event.
With such a big lead, the duo had won before they even climbed the tower for their final dive.
“It’s a dream come true for sure, but it’s not over yet,” Cozad said.
As they came out of the water after their final dive – a back two and a half somersault, one and a half pike – the two immediately swam to each other and embraced.
Parratto and Cozad, who began diving as a pair two years ago, compete side by side every day in IU’s aquatic center. They’re just two of a group of divers who have been training under IU Coach Drew Johansen to earn a spot on Team USA.
For Cozad, this means a little more. She’s been waiting four years for a second chance.
After falling one spot short of qualifying individually for the 2012 Olympics, Cozad took a step toward redemption Wednesday night.
She spoke about her aunt, who encouraged her to start diving and took her to practices when she was younger. She said there are “hundreds” of people she should be thanking.
Parratto was coached by her mom until she was 14 years old. She, too, couldn’t believe her name was going on that wall – especially next to Jenny Thompson, she said, an Olympic swimmer who Parratto’s dad coached.
“It’s not just our accomplishment,” Parratto said. “It’s for all the people who have been behind us for years and years and years.”
Long after family and friends and fans left the IUPUI Natatorium, there was one last thing to do.
Under “2016 Diving,” Amy Cozad and Jessica Parratto had their names scripted, slowly, perfectly, one letter at a time on the wall of Olympians.