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Junior Nationals Groomed Duke Olympic Divers

Junior Diving Champion
Leoneda Inge

The Olympic Games in London are wrapping up but not before more diving.  Nick McCrory of Chapel Hill is one of the top divers in the world and will be competing in the individual 10-meter platform competition today.  He has already captured a bronze medal at the games in synchronized diving.  McCrory is a student and trains at Duke University.  But before Duke and the Olympics,  McCrory competed in swimming competitions like the Junior Nationals which have been underway this week in Greensboro.

Leoneda Inge:  One after the other, America’s top young divers literally fly and then splash in the water down below.  Actually, they’re hoping for as little splash as possible. Like this one.

Diving Fans: Yeah, way to go Jordan!

This is the U-S-A Diving Junior National Championships at the Greensboro Acquatic Center.  Eric Elliott is the diving coach at the University of Kansas and for the young-bucks at the Jayhawk Diving Club age 18 and under. He says you gotta have guts to do this.

Eric Elliott:  And you’re really looking for a kid that’s a little bit nuts, a little crazy.  You know, they have to have a little bit of no fear in them, you know. Because you take some pretty good belly-flops and back-smackers when you’re learning how to dive.

One diving coach at the Junior Nationals that everybody seems to know is Nunzio Esposto.  He’s the national team coach at the American School for Diving at Duke University.  He used to be Olympian Nick McCrory’s coach at a similar program at the University of North Carolina.

Leoneda Inge:  Is this one of your first students to ever win a medal at the Olympics?

Nunzio Esposto:  Oh definitely, yes. I don’t know if there will be anymore, but hopefully with me coaching again, we’ll see.

Esposto began coaching McCrory when he was only seven years old.  Their relationship continued for a decade. Esposto also began young, diving at his community YMCA in Butler, Pennsylvania and then in college.  Esposto retired from coaching for a while but now he’s back, juggling his career at Rex Hospital with coaching.  He’s glad to be at the Junior Nationals again.

Nunzio Esposto:  That’s where all of our Olympians come from, all the US Olympic athletes come from these meets. And so, they’ll move on from this meet, they’ll go to the senior national level and then they’ll vie for an Olympic spot, just like Nick did.

And what keeps Espostoe coaching?  Young divers like 14-year-old Connor Callahan of Cary.  Connor’s favorite dive, the back, two-and-a-half somersaults off the three meter board.

Connor Callahan:  It’s cool being able to build yourself up and keep getting better. In a lot of sports you can’t keep doing that , so it’s a lot of fun.

Conner says he’s been closely watching the Olympics and hopes to make it there himself one day.  Meanwhile, Olympian Nick McCrory isn’t the only Duke diver to win a medal in London.  Abby Johnston and her partner won a silver in synchronized diving.   If you want to see Johnston in action, she’ll be competing next week at the A T and T Senior National USA Diving Championships at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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