Michael Hixon wouldn’t let himself think about it.
In the moments leading up to his final dive June 22 night, the thought of becoming an Olympian – a lifelong dream – hadn’t crossed his mind.
This isn’t that big of a deal, he would think, to keep the pressure of competing on the world’s biggest stage from getting to him.
But when he saw his winning score flash across the screen, Hixon finally let himself believe it.
“After the last dive it was pretty emotional,” he said. “For the first time, I really thought about it.”
Hixon, an IU junior, and his partner Sam Dorman, of Miami Diving, outlasted Kristian Ipsen and Troy Dumais to win the 3-meter synchro event and earn their trip to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Ipsen and Dumais won a bronze medal in 2012 and were expected to represent the United States again this time around, but couldn’t get past Hixon and Dorman, who led through all three rounds of competition last week.
When the duo climbed out of the pool for the final time, their faces, full of excitement and disbelief, said it all.
“Words can’t describe it really,” Dorman said.
Hixon and Dorman had only been training together for two months before the trials.
Both their coaches and a high performance director matched them up because of their strength in certain dives.
Hixon said there’s a fairly standard list of dives you need in order to medal at the Olympics.
It was those dives the two had experience with, and made them more compatible as a synchro team than they were with their previous partners.
“I think when we started off we realized there needed to be a lot of communication and a sense of how you compete and not just how to be synched up,” Dorman said.
What helped, Hixon said, was the dedication they’ve both had individually to being the best divers in the country.
He credited the IU diving facilities and teammates he trains next to every day.
They call themselves the Olympic Performance Squad — Hixon, Darian Schmidt, Jessica Parratto and Amy Cozad, as well as James Connor, competing for Australia this summer, and Emad Abdelatif, competing for Egypt.
The environment at IU creates success, Hixon said.
Parratto and Cozad, after they also qualified for the Olympics, agreed Hixon is one of their main motivators in practice.
“Michael is easily the hardest-working person I know,” Cozad said. “It’s just a challenge to keep up with him. Him alone makes us better because he’s constantly pushing us.”
After the win, Hixon and Dorman wanted to share it with their families.
Hixon, who was coached by his mom until he went to college, even snuck her a pass to get onto the pool deck Wednesday night.
“It’s unbelievable to see her after this,” he said. “So much of this moment right now is because of her.”