Michael Hixon advances to semifinals of 3-meter springboard in Rio

  • Michael Hixon competes during the men’s 3-meter springboard diving preliminary round in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday. AP

  • American diver and Amherst native Mike Hixon competes during a men’s 3-meter springboard diving preliminary in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday. Hixon, who won silver with Sam Dorman during 3-meter synchronized, advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal round. AP

For the Gazette
Published: 8/15/2016 7:37:14 PM

RIO DE JANERIO — Winds ripped through the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center. Clouds rolled in off Lagoa de Jacarepaguá. Divers struggled to keep up with the ever changing conditions.

But the wind didn’t bother Michael Hixon.

The Amherst native competed earlier in the Rio Olympics in the 3-meter synchronized springboard in rainy conditions and took the silver medal with Sam Dorman. Hixon knew it would come down to being mentally better.

Hixon finished 10th in the preliminary round of the 3-meter springboard competition on Monday night, easily qualifying for the semifinal round on Tuesday morning.

“For us, it was who had the most mental toughness,” Hixon said.

The round started in almost ideal conditions for an outdoor competition. Sun drenched the spectators in the stadium with the occasional gust of wind. Hixon stepped to the board and completed a back 2½ somersault pike for a score of 67.50, good enough for a tie for 16th after the first round.

But the wind kicked up almost immediately after his dive.

The wind speed jumped to 10-15 mph in a matter of minutes. Colombian Sebastian Morales, who went six divers after Hixon, had to back off the board for a moment to see if the wind would die down before scoring a 55.8 on his dive.

“It was way windier than what I was expecting it to be,” said Hixon’s American teammate Kristian Ipsen. “It definitely made it more exciting.”

Ipsen said the wind they faced can severely affect a diver’s balance as he starts his jump.

“If your balance is thrown off, it completely ruins the start of your dive so you have to try recover mid-air,” Ipsen said. “It’s pretty rough.”

Hixon, however, showed no signs of the weather affecting him on his second and third dives. He scored a 76.5 on a forward 2½ with 2 twists pike and an 85.75 on a forward 1½ with 3½ twists free to vault him into third place halfway through the round.

Meanwhile, Ipsen, who also qualified for the semifinals with a third-place finish, said he made timing adjustments to avoid the wind. The 23-year-old, who trained outside at Stanford, aimed to start his dive whenever he found a break in the wind, even if it meant rushing the dive.

“Usually I wait a little bit longer, but I felt like there was a break so I would go immediately and catch a little bit of a break so I wouldn’t go full force,” Ipsen said.

Hixon wasn’t completely perfect.

He struggled to complete a reverse 3½ tuck on his fourth dive, creating a larger splash as he entered the water and deducting points. It was his lowest scored dive at 47.2, which knocked him down to ninth.

Hixon scored an 81.7 and a 62.9 on his next two dives to secure his semifinal spot with a score of 421.6.

“The goal was top 18 and now I’m in the semis,” Hixon said.

Not everyone was able to deal with the weather the way Hixon was.

Ken Terauchi of Japan stepped onto the diving board for his second round dive, but backed off after a sudden gust of wind. He got back on a minute later, but failed to complete the dive, hitting the water with most of his back. The judges gave Terauchi an 18, which his coach appealed to no avail and the annoyance of some fans.

2012 Olympic champion Ilia Zahkarov of Russia also struggled to adjust to the conditions. Zahkarov scored a 50.4 or below on each of his first three dives to put him on the brink of elimination, but qualified with scores of 87.75 and 85.5 on his last two dives to lift him to 18th.

“When the reigning Olympic champion is 18th, you know the conditions are bad,” Hixon said.

Hixon will have to make the top 12 in the semifinals on Tuesday in order to have shot at a second medal in Rio. The forecast for the event at 9 a.m. EST calls for partly sunny skies and light wind, a welcome change after the conditions on Monday. But Hixon isn’t planning on changing any part of his mentality.

“Just stay in the fight,” Hixon said. “That’s all you can ask for.”


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