Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Krysta Palmer makes U.S. Olympic diving history, competes in Jesus' name

Krysta Palmer competed at elite levels in gymnastics and trampoline until she was 20, but injuries forced her to stop. A friend suggested she try diving.

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Nine years later, she’s an Olympic diving medalist. Palmer won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday in the women’s 3-meter springboard event, becoming the first U.S. female to finish on the podium in an individual diving event since the 2000 Sydney Games (Laura Wilkinson won gold in 10m platform). And Palmer is the first American woman to claim a medal in this event since 1988 (Kelly McCormick won bronze).

Palmer’s score of 343.75 came in behind Shi Tingmao (383.50) and Wang Han (348.75) of China, the pair that won the women’s synchronized 3m springboard competition a week ago. Shi also won individual 3m gold at the 2016 Olympics, and her title this year marks the ninth straight Olympic gold in the event for China.

That Palmer won a medal was impressive considering how she started her time in Tokyo. She finished 15th out of 18 in the preliminary round, and finished fifth out of 12 in the semifinal round.

“Wow,” Palmer said when told about the last time the U.S. won a medal in this event. “You know, we have really strong springboard divers in the USA right now, and if it wasn’t me, it could’ve been one of them. So carrying that level to the international stage has been exciting … it’s exciting to just make a little more history.”

The first person Palmer wanted to hug upon learning she’d win a medal was her coach, Jian Li You, who’s been Palmer’s only coach in diving. When a friend suggested Palmer try diving, she got a meeting with Jian, the head diving coach at the University of Nevada. Jian is a former Chinese diver who would have competed at the 1980 Olympics were it not for a Chinese boycott, and she is the first female U.S. Olympic diving coach.

“I thought I was done with my athletic career [after stopping trampoline due to injuries], but God had other plans for me,” Palmer told the Record-Courier in Nevada in June. “I met a friend who knew Jian Li, and she said to come up here to meet the coach. She’s incredible and has so much knowledge. She’s a Chinese national team coach. She’s been in Nevada for more than 25 years. I just picked up diving for fun and I didn’t really see a realistic goal of the Olympics, but we just kept setting bigger and bigger dreams and goals. We just kept achieving those goals and I was like, ‘Wow, we just have to keep making bigger goals.’”

Palmer began as a walk-on but eventually earned a full scholarship to compete for Nevada, and she began competing for the U.S. national team in 2015. She won her first medal at an international competition in 2018.

Throughout her rise in the sport of diving, Palmer has leaned on her faith. She often credits God with her success, and in her Instagram bio she says, “In Jesus’ name I play.”

 

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Palmer also competed in the women’s 3m synchronized springboard event in Tokyo. She placed eighth out of eight teams with partner Alison Gibson.

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