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Troy Dumais’ complicated path to U.S. Olympic diving records

Troy Dumais

poses for a portrait at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.

Sean M. Haffey

Troy Dumais wants to become the oldest U.S. Olympic diver in more than 100 years, perhaps of all time*, and the first diver to make five U.S. Olympic teams.

He must find a synchronized diving partner first. The Olympic trials are in less than three months.

Dumais, a 36-year-old who earned his first Olympic medal in 2012 (synchronized springboard bronze), competed with two different synchro partners at each of the two biggest national meets of 2015.

Diving with multiple partners at one event is not uncommon, but Dumais’ results were heartbreakingly peculiar.

At both meets, he dived with his 2012 Olympic medal-winning partner, Kristian Ipsen, and with NCAA springboard champion Sam Dorman.

Both times, he finished second with Ipsen and third with Dorman. The winning synchro team at each meet? Ipsen and Dorman, who (obviously) also competed with multiple partners.

The meets were the 2015 World Championships trials and the 2015 Winter Nationals, the latter a selection meet for the FINA World Cup at the Olympic venue in Rio de Janeiro last month.

Only one synchro team per nation per event can compete at Worlds and the World Cup (and the Olympics), so Dumais just missed qualifying, while his two partners did qualify for Worlds and the World Cup.

Ipsen and Dorman, both more than a decade younger than Dumais, together finished seventh at Worlds, sixth at the World Cup and, most recently, third at a FINA World Series stop in Beijing two weeks ago.

They’re looking like the favorites going into the June Olympic trials in Indianapolis, where, again, only one synchro team per event can earn an Olympic berth. They are not yet locked in to compete together at trials, but it would be a surprise if they change partners in the spring of an Olympic year.

Where does that leave Dumais?

Dumais could compete at trials with multiple partners, but he said it would be easier to focus with one partner for such a big meet.

He will partner with Michael Hixon, the 2014 NCAA springboard champion, at a Puerto Rico meet next week but is not yet locked in with Hixon for trials.

Dumais and Hixon competed at the 2013 World Championships, finishing a respectable fifth, and continued to train together into spring 2014 since Dumais was based in Austin, Texas, where Hixon competed for the Longhorns. Ipsen competed at Stanford during that time.

After winning NCAAs as a freshman in 2014, Hixon transferred from Texas to the University of Indiana. Hixon has since competed in synchro solely with one partner, Indiana-based Darian Schmidt.

After the Puerto Rico meet, the best U.S. springboard divers will convene in early April and early May to determine the pairs going forward, Dumais said.

“We’re going to find out right then and there who the best teams are, and then we’re going to dive those teams,” Dumais said. “We have a plan. ... It’s amazing how things can go awry, and then when the pressure’s on, how it all comes back together. It just would have been nice to have this in the plan for two to three years versus months before.”

It’s unclear what Dumais will do if Ipsen and Dorman and Hixon and Schmidt link up for trials and don’t have multiple partners. His 2004 Olympic synchro partner, older brother Justin, is retired. Another experienced synchro partner, younger brother Dwight, is diving with another Texan.

Of course, Dumais could also qualify for the Olympic team individually.

In 2015, he also missed the Worlds team by one spot in the individual springboard, finishing third at trials (behind Hixon and Schmidt). Previously, the last time a U.S. diving team went to an Olympics or Worlds without Dumais was the Atlanta 1996 Games.

Is Dumais more confident he can make the Olympic team in synchro or individually?

“I’m confident about both of them,” he said recently. “I haven’t been traveling and competing as much this go-around because I wanted to make sure that I had the [difficult] dives.”

Dumais placed sixth individually at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics and fifth in 2012.

He was inconsistent last year -- third at Worlds trials, fourth at Winter Nationals and 11th at the U.S. Championships.

The Worlds trials last May had to be especially painful, as Dumais would have made the team if not for a failed dive in the first round. Scores are cumulative for all three rounds (18 dives total), and Dumais lost about 80 points with the failed, zero-point dive.

He finished 34.85 points out of second place and a Worlds spot.

Then at Winter Nationals in December, Dumais finished fourth, but he upped his degree of difficulty to 20.6 total points in the final round versus 19.9 in most prior rounds and meets last year.

The 20.6 matched Hixon’s difficulty, was six tenths greater than Ipsen (who won Winter Nationals) and six tenths fewer than Dorman.

“Now I’m doing the dives that even the youngest and the strongest are in the world,” Dumais said. “The problem that I always had at the Olympics was that I might have been short a little degree of difficulty.”

MORE: U.S. could send full team of individual divers to Olympics

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*Dumais would become the oldest U.S. Olympic diver of all time based on birth records available to Olympic historians, but not all U.S. Olympic divers’ ages from the 1904 and 1908 Games are known.