Amherst’s Michael Hixon ready for one more shot at U.S. Olympic Diving Trials

  • Amherst's Michael Hixon, left, and and fellow Indiana product Andrew Capobianco finished fourth in the men's three-meter springboard synchronized event at the FINA World Cup last month in Tokyo. USA DIVING

  • Amherst's Michael Hixon, shown here at the 2021 FINA World Cup in Tokyo last month, will attempt to qualify for the Summer Games this week at the US Diving Trials. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/6/2021 6:25:35 PM

A silver medal won’t buy Michael Hixon anything at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials. The Amherst native will begin his quest to make a second consecutive Olympic team this week in Indianapolis competing in two events: the men’s 3-meter springboard and men’s 3-meter springboard synchro with partner Andrew Capobianco.

“Having been on a team before doesn’t give me anything. The score is tied at zero,” Hixon said. “Just because I’ve been there before doesn’t mean I have any advantage.”

The synchro prelims begin at 11 a.m. Monday, and the semifinals begin later that evening at 7 p.m. on the Olympic Channel. The finals are 7 p.m Friday on the Olympic Channel.

The individual springboard prelims start Wednesday at 10 a.m., and the semifinals follow at 7 p.m on the Olympic Channel. NBC will air the individual final at 6:35 p.m. Saturday.

Only the top synchro team qualifies for the Olympics, while the top two individuals in the springboard will make Team USA.

Hixon, 26, qualified for both events at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro games, and he and partner Sam Dorman claimed a silver medal in synchro. In the intervening years, Hixon added more All-American honors at Indiana and claimed a national title on the one-meter board. He changed synchro partners from Dorman – who retired – to fellow Hoosier Capobianco.

When the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to this summer, Hixon was in Indiana training. He kept training throughout the year, diving wherever he could find a board and enough depth in the water. Hixon practiced at community pools and even in a backyard in Michigan to stay sharp for this opportunity.

“It was any port in a storm, anywhere I could find to dive until the fall,” he said. “There’s a lot of silver linings. I get to dive for another year. I wasn’t positive I was going to retire, but it looks more and more like I would retire after the Olympics. I got to keep doing a thing that I love.”

Hixon also kept improving. He cleaned up areas that hampered him, particularly a reverse one-and-a-half with three and a half twists.

“We attacked it from a different angle,” he said.

While Hixon’s previous time on Team USA won’t score him any points, his years of international competition have helped prepare him mentally for the rigors of the trials.

“I feel like I’ve been through it enough to know it’s going to take consistency. It doesn’t take anything out of this world special,” Hixon said. “It takes doing a good job for 18 dives in each event.”

He’ll have another advantage from his 2016 experience: more chemistry with his synchro partner. Hixon and Capobianco have been diving together since 2018. They placed eighth at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and qualified the United States’ Olympic slot with a fourth-place finish at the FINA World Cup in Tokyo last month.

“I feel really good about where we are and where we are as a synchro team. I always say the most high pressure meet is the World Cup right before the Olympics,” Hixon said. “It’s more pressure than the trials, more pressure than the Olympic games. If you don’t show up there not only is your Olympic run over, your country doesn’t even get to compete.”

That’s really what Hixon wants: a chance to compete and finish his career at a meet.

“This whole thing looked like it was going to be taken away from us. I remember thinking in December and February, thinking it wouldn’t happen,” he said. “You’d hate to end your career at a practice. The fact that we get to end on a meet is incredible.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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