June 17, 2008
By Catharine Montgomery
Since Dan Mazzaferro was 7 years old, he has been preparing himself for the events set to take place this week.
A native of Cheshire, Conn., Mazzaferro started competing in gymnastics at age 5, but it was two years later when he discovered the sport that would bring him to this point: diving.
His diving career began at a local country club, but progressed when he started training with a club team. While in high school, he competed for his school's team, but it was with the club team that he made it to the national stage.
"I started diving there more seriously, did more competitions and started diving nationally," said Mazzaferro.
Until his junior year, Mazzaferro advanced in both diving and gymnastics, but eventually had to choose between the two sports.
"I stayed in gymnastics until I was a junior," said Mazzafero.
"Going into my junior year, I decided I wanted to make it to the Olympics in one of those two sports; that was my all-time goal and I figured my best opportunity would be in diving."
Mazzaferro, now a sophomore at Auburn majoring in Chemistry, puts all of his mental and physical preparation to the test this week with the opening of the 2008 USA Diving Olympic Trials.
Through gymnastics and diving, Mazzaferro has been able to train himself both mentally and physically to reach this point in his career.
"Gymnastics and diving are both very similar sports because they're both comprised of a lot of flipping and twisting and awareness in the air and they're really physical sports," says Mazzafero.
"You need to be in good shape and you need to be also mentally strong. When you are in the air you are using your physical abilities along with your mental abilities to perform the dive and so it's a complex routine."
While maintaining a near-perfect 3.9 grade-point average and earning ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors this season, Mazzaferro has also had to deal with the juggling act of academics and competition on the national stage.
"Its hard because I am a full time student here and I am doing well academically and pretty much when I am not diving I am either in class or I'm studying," said Mazzaferro. "By the time we [the team] finish school and practice we are whooped and we are tired and we just want to relax. But the nice thing is that our whole team is really close and we all understand where each other are when you are done with practice and school."
To relax before a meet, he begins with a 45-minute nap and listens to a playlist of his favorite music by Dave Matthews or Chris Brown. For the last year he says, "I also try to keep my mind on my own diving and not try to look around at other folks diving and try to stay in my own little world before and during the competition."
His lifelong preparation has prepared him for competing on the platform at the trials and his experience in competing has led him to decide his list of dives in the Olympic Trials.
"I will start with a back Armstand with two somersaults with one and a half twists, said Mazzaferro. "My second dive is a front three and a half somersault piked and my third is a back three and a half somersault tucked. My fourth dive will be a reverse three and half somersault tuck and fifth is a three and a half somersaults tucked. My last dive, which is my favorite and the one I normally score the most points from, is a back two and half somersaults with one and a half twist."
Success has been no stranger to Mazzaferro in his second season on the Auburn swimming and diving team. In February, he continued the Auburn streak by winning the platform title at the SEC Championships with a personal-best score of 444.65.
He went on to finish fifth on the platform at the NCAA Championships and recently came in 15th at the USA Diving Spring Nationals.
Mazzaferro's quest for China begins this week with the USA Diving Olympic Trials, set to open at 7 p.m., Wednesday at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis, Ind.