South Carolina’s Julia Vincent started diving during her freshman year of high school.
Spring forward six years and she’s headed to compete in the Rio Olympics for South Africa.
Vincent, a junior from Guateng, South Africa, earned an Olympic qualifying score in the 3-meter spring board event at the FINA World Cup in February. She won the 3-meter at South African Olympic Trials with a score of 298.00 in April to clinch a berth in the Olympics.
“It was probably the most nerve-wracking meet I ever had to be a part of, because there was so much on the line,” Vincent said. “I’ve competed at many nationals before, but obviously there was a lot more riding on this one.”
Vincent spent 18 years in South Africa before moving to the United States to attend USC. In high school, she saw the pool’s diving board and tried it for the first time.
“I wanted to be a gymnast when I was younger,” Vincent said. “Diving is pretty much gymnastics in the water, I guess, because you do flips and stuff. So that’s what I wanted to do, just try it out.”
Despite her late start in the sport, Vincent has won several honors for the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events, including seven total victories this season. She placed sixth in the 1-meter (308.95) and 14th in the 3-meter (287.55) events at the SEC Championships in February. She also finished fourth in the 1-meter (331.05) event at the NCAA Championships in March, earning her All-American honors.
USC diving coach Todd Sherritt said it’s rare to see divers who start late perform at the Olympic level like Vincent has.
“It’s been done before, but it is very few,” Sherritt said. “Just from an aesthetic point, she’s got the best combination of power and style and that’s what it takes to win anything in our sport.”
While Sherritt praised Vincent for her grace and strength, he hopes she will “be free” in the Olympics.
“What I mean by that is a lot of people get pressure on them and they can’t make themselves do what they want to do,” Sheritt said. “From what I’m seeing, if she puts together the best meet that she can put together, then I think we’re going to see some phenomenal stuff.”
As for Vincent, she’s preparing to attend her first Olympic games with a specific goal in mind.
“I think my main goal would be to make the semifinal, which is top 18,” Vincent said. “I think as long as I’m completing or executing the dives that Coach Todd tells me to, I’ll be very happy with my performance.”