Amherst’s Michael Hixon reflects on Tokyo Olympics experience as he starts internship

  • Amherst's Michael Hixon won his second Olympic medal in synchronized diving last week. Now he's back in the real world headed to Florida for an internship in the financial industry. AP—AP

  • Amherst's Michael Hixon won his second Olympic medal in synchronized diving last week. Now he's back in the real world headed to Florida for an internship in the financial industry. AP—AP

  • Amherst's Michael Hixon, right, won his second Olympic medal in synchronized diving last week. Now he's back in the real world headed to Florida for an internship in the financial industry. AP—AP

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2021 6:57:04 PM

Michael Hixon returned to his Olympic Village room late after being whisked between media obligations and appearing on the Today show.

The Amherst native expected that part after winning his second silver medal last week in Tokyo, but then he remembered his flight out of Japan was at 5 o’clock the next morning.

“I was like ‘oh man I’ve gotta pack my bags,’” Hixon said. “It sort of snaps you back into reality really quick, whereas other Olympics you get to sit around and enjoy it a bit longer.”

In Rio De Janeiro five years ago, Hixon and his family went to the beach. They watched Olympic golf and basketball. He met actor Zac Efron, who many called his doppelgänger.

This year they watched from home. He called them and his girlfriend as soon as he could.

“That was awesome to share that with them,” Hixon said. “You’re with (diving partner) Andrew (Capobianco) the whole day so we had a chance to talk to each other, say some nice things to each other, sort of thank each other for the whole experience. The whole day was great afterwards.”

Hixon didn’t have many complaints about his second Olympic trip despite the lack of spectators and increased safety protocols. The early part of the games mirrored his 2016 experience, moving between the village and the venue, taking care of his body and preparing to compete.

“The only thing we didn’t get to experience was the city of Tokyo. The village was awesome,” he said. “It’s weird to explain because it’s not any activities or anything. Just walking around the village is an incredible experience in itself. There’s no place like it in the world. You’re walking around and you see people between the heights of 7-foot-2 and 4-foot-5, from every corner of the world. There’s so many cultures there. To be a part of that is pretty special.”

‘I just felt ready’

The competition itself didn’t set up Hixon and Capobianco for success, but they succeeded anyway. The American team dived first, which isn’t ideal because of the way judges typically score the competition.

“It’s one of those things, you have to deal with it. I think historically the judges’ pockets get a little deeper a little later in the round,” Hixon said.

The Olympic men’s synchronized springboard event goes straight to an eight-team final. It lacks preliminaries or semifinals to narrow the field like a typical dive meet. Normally, divers go in reverse order of their seeds in the final to give the best divers an idea of the scores they need to win or be ahead.

“Because of that, you never want to be first, but obviously we dealt with it well and came out where we wanted to be,” Hixon said.

They managed the chaos of the run-up masterfully, staying calm during difficult dives while other top teams faltered.

“Once the whistle blew, once we got in the meet, I just felt ready. I felt the way I needed to feel to compete well,” Hixon said.

Entering the last dive, the Americans trailed only China but had a lead on the rest of the field for silver. The final dive on their list, 4½ somersaults, has a high scoring potential if executed well but can backfire because of its difficulty.

“We’re both scoreboard watchers for sure. We knew where we were. We were in that weird gap where we had to really crank one to try and catch China but we just needed a solid dive to make sure we held onto silver. I’d say we came away with a solid dive,” Hixon said.

“Definitely a little more to be had on that one, but besides that leading into that I don’t think either of us could have asked for anything more from those five dives leading into the last round. That was as well as we could execute, so I think we were both really happy with that.”

Life changing

After flying out of Tokyo, Hixon returned to Ann Arbor, Mich., where he completed the first year of an MBA program this past school year, before loading up his life to drive to an internship in Florida. He’ll be working at a family office managing private wealth in Del Ray Beach, Fla., at a firm owned by one of his father Dave Hixon’s former Amherst College men’s basketball players.

For the first time in more than 20 years, he won’t be a diver. He’ll just have a real job.

“I think the biggest thing will be not showing up at the pool. Maybe one time in my life I’ve taken more than a week off. And so to just not wake up and feel like I’ve got to go do something or feel like I have to be in good shape or stay healthy, all that stuff. That’s going to be the weirdest thing for me,” Hixon said. “I think it’ll be difficult. I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old. I don’t know what my life is going to be like without it.”

He didn’t outright say he was retiring and left the door cracked for a return.

“I guess we’ll have to see. We’ll take it one day at a time. You never know, maybe it is something I do come back to. Right now, I’m excited for this internship and taking it one day at a time,” Hixon said. “I’m so excited for the opportunity to contribute. In that respect, all that feels great. I feel like I’m chipping away, doing something I really want to do. I’m going to give it my all.”

Though he may not return to Amherst for a while, he knows how much his hometown supported him when he competed.

“It means the world to me. Some of the messages that I get from people, specifically back in Amherst — it’s one of those things, it feels like to me that Amherst has always had my back,” Hixon said. “It didn’t matter if I didn’t medal or didn’t make an Olympic team. That community is incredible, and the support there is more than I could ever ask for.”

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


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