Amherst’s Michael Hixon earns silver medal in Olympic synchronized diving

  • United States' Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • United States' Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • United States' Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • United States' Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • United States' Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • Gold medalists Britain's Jack Laugher, centre left, and Chris Mears, center right, pose with silver medalists United States' Sam Dorman, left, and Mike Hixon, second left, and bronze medalists China's Cao Yuan, second right, and Qin Kai China's Cao Yuan, on the podium after the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Wong Maye-E

  • United States' Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon, right, compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Wong Maye-E

  • United States' Michael Hixon of Amherst, left, and his partner Sam Dorman compete in the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday. AP

  • United States' Sam Dorman, right, and Mike Hixon compete during the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Wong Maye-E

  • United States' silver medalist Michael Hixon, right, and Sam Dorman talk to supporters after the medals ceremony of the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Wednesday. Below, Hixon, top, and Dorman compete during the event. AP PHOTOs

  • United States' silver medalist Mike Hixon, bites his medal while looking at supporters after the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Wong Maye-E

  • Gold medalists Britain's Jack Laugher, centre left, and Chris Mears, center right, embrace at the end of the medal ceremony as silver medalists United States' Sam Dorman, left, and Mike Hixon, second left, and bronze medalists China's Cao Yuan, third right, and Qin Kai China's Cao Yuan, second right, walk away after the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • United States' silver medalists Sam Dorman and Mike Hixon wave to supporters from the podium after the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Wong Maye-E

  • Britain's Jack Laugher, centre left, and Chris Mears, center right, react after being presented with their gold medals flanked by United States' silver medalist Mike Hixon, left, and bronze medalist China's Cao Yuan, right, after the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

For the Gazette
Published: 8/10/2016 9:54:45 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO — Michael Hixon trained for two years to perfect the dive known as 109C.

On Wednesday, with his partner Sam Dorman, it earned him a silver medal in the Rio Olympics.

The Americans scored 450.21 in six dives in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard, 4.11 points behind Great Britain, which scored 454.32.

Dorman and Hixon, diving in the Olympics for the first time, beat the bronze medalists from China, the pre-event favorites, by 10.62 points.

“It feels so great,” the Amherst native said. “We’ve been working for this for a really long time and for it to come to fruition is really special.”

The 109C — four and a half somersaults with a front tuck — was the second-most challenging in the competition, with a difficulty score of 3.8. The Americans saved the dive for the sixth and final round, where they earned the highest dive of the day at 98.04.

But the two finished the competition much differently than they started it.

In the first two rounds, they struggled through the voluntaries, earning 50 points each for their simple reverse dives. Only Brazil held a lower score on the board. Their chances appeared slim as it started to sprinkle on the 6,400-seat Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park.

As it turned out, Dorman and Hixon had been praying for the rain.

Before leaving for the Olympics, former Team USA diver Scott Donie told Hixon and Dorman to hope for bad weather. Dorman often trains in poor conditions in Miami, Hixon said, and the pair felt confident on the board that the other seven teams in the event might not be as comfortable with the rain.

“Anyone who was willing to go out there and dive their best in the rain and not let it bother them had an advantage,” said Hixon, who dives for Indiana University.

That turned out to be the Americans.

Each team continued after them, scoring higher and higher in the early rounds, leaving Hixon and Dorman well behind. But then came Round 3 — the divers’ first chance to attempt harder dives. The duo soared with the degree of difficulty.

“I’m definitely more comfortable with our stronger, harder dives,” Dorman said. “To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the voluntaries. I’d prefer to be able to go a 100 percent.”

They finished Round 3 in third place, just behind Great Britain and Russia.

With each round that followed, Hixon and Dorman found their rhythm, increasing their scores and dive difficulty until the fifth round. By then, they had jumped to second place. With one dive left — the dive they’d been training for — every point mattered.

Right before the U.S. stepped onto their springboards, Mexico asked the judges for a re-dive on its team’s attempt of the 109C, a delay that took several minutes.

The request was rejected before Hixon and Dorman came out. Later, they agreed the delay had helped them clear their heads.

They took three running steps, jumped and cleared their boards. With the twin splashes they left in the water, the crowd roared.

Hixon and Dorman hadn’t seen their score yet, but they felt it. The dive was nearly flawless, prompting the judges to award the highest synchronization score of the day. Hixon yelled, pumping his fists into the water before getting out to hug Dorman.

“I was definitely very excited and very in the moment,” Hixon said. “I was just so happy with our performance. We had a pretty big lead ... going into that dive, so as soon as that dive happened, I pretty much knew we were a medal lock. I just didn’t know what color.”

The three countries that followed tried to replicate the dive, all of them failing to capture the ease with which Hixon and Dorman stayed together, looking like reflections of each other as they made their descent into the pool.

After the last two divers, it was certain — the duo had just made U.S. history. It was the highest event finish in the Olympics for an American pair.

“We thought we had a chance to win gold tonight,” Hixon said, “but I am happy with the silver.”

Cat Cardenas is reporting from the Rio Olympics for the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism.