UNC diver becomes first in school history to qualify for Olympic Trials

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David MacDonald dives into the pool at UNC’s Koury Natatorium. MacDonald became the first Tar Heel to earn a spot in the Olympic Trials with a 12th-place finish at the AT&T National Diving Championships.

It might have been luck that landed North Carolina diver David MacDonald in the semifinals of the men’s three-meter at the AT&T U.S. Diving National Championships, but it was perseverance that earned him a place in UNC history.

MacDonald finished two spots outside of the top 18 in the quarterfinals of the Championship meet, which ordinarily would not have allowed him to advance to the next round. But two divers could not attend the semifinals, and the redshirt senior squeezed his way into the last spot.

With a 12th place finish in the semifinals, MacDonald became the first Tar Heel diver in school history to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

“I knew if I made finals I’d make trials,” MacDonald said. “Mainly, I wanted to prove to myself and to people that hadn’t seen me dive before that I can dive.”

Competitors at the championships included Olympians Troy Dumais and Chris Colwill, but MacDonald tried to keep the stiff competition off his mind.

“It didn’t really affect me as much as I thought it would,” MacDonald said. “When you’re on the side everyone’s just chilling, no one is put on a pedestal.”

MacDonald’s calm demeanor on such a grand stage was no surprise to teammate Bryant Wooten, who considers the trait one of MacDonald’s major strengths.

A redshirt sophomore, Wooten said he has benefited from MacDonald’s leadership on the team.

“It’s great being able to ask him questions in practice and have him coaching us on the sidelines,” Wooten said.

MacDonald said there was a lot less pressure on him in the championships because he didn’t have to worry about performing well for his team. This time, he just had his own successes and failures to worry about.

But for MacDonald, staying calm is a trick of the trade.
In a sport where even minor mental lapses can result in point deductions at the judges table, MacDonald said the key to his focus on the diving board is a clear mind.

“I’ve done (the dives) so many times,” MacDonald said. “It’s kind of just getting in the zone and doing what your body knows how to do.”

After watching the countless hours MacDonald has spent training to get stronger, UNC diving coach Kevin Lawrence attributes much of MacDonald’s success to the power he generates on the diving board.
“He’s kind of built like a linebacker, and he’s got a good sense of balance and grace,” Lawrence said.

Amid MacDonald’s excitement in earning a spot in the Olympic Trials — which will be held in Federal Way, Wash. in June 2012 — MacDonald’s and Lawrence’s expectations are tempered by the fact that only two divers will have the opportunity to represent the United States in MacDonald’s event in the 2012 Olympics.

But Lawrence is hopeful that with a strong season at UNC under his belt, MacDonald will have a chance at punching his ticket to the London games.

Earning an opportunity longed for by athletes all over the world would no doubt be an honor for MacDonald.

But for now, he will settle for going down in the North Carolina diving history books.

“When it happened I didn’t really know (I was the first),” MacDonald said. “Coach just told me the other day ‘Yeah, no one’s ever done it.’”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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