April 14, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Freshman diver Julia Vincent has already represented the University of South Carolina well by etching her name in the school record books and advancing to the Women's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships earlier this season. Now the rookie from Johannesburg, South Africa, is returning to her homeland and hopes some of that success will continue as she competes in the South African National Championships later this month with a chance of representing the national team in the future.
"I'm hoping to qualify for the World Championships there and the World Student Games as well," Vincent said. "There's a lot on the line. I've scoped out the competition so I know who I am competing against. I just want to keep a positive mind and make sure I hit my dives consistently. I just want to have fun."
No stranger to such competition, Vincent competed in in the 2010 and 2012 World Junior Diving Championships, the 2013 World Diving Championships and the 2014 Diving World Cup. That success carried over to her first season with the Gamecocks as the 21 year old won the three-meter springboard competition at the NCAA Zone B Diving Championships with her school-record score of 722.70. She also qualified for the national championships in the one-meter, finishing in third place with a score of 604.85, also a school record. She moved on to represent the Gamecocks in the one-meter and three-meter events at the Women's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, in March.
"I just wanted to make the NCAAs," Vincent said. "I wasn't thinking about anything else. For me to win and break records was an unreal experience. I didn't even realize I had done it until later when someone told me that I had broken a school record. It was a great experience. Going to the NCAAs was a really great experience too. The talent level there was completely different from anything I had seen on the collegiate level."
Not bad for someone who only began diving competitively six years ago.
"When I went into high school, I thought I would try it out," Vincent said. "I always wanted to do gymnastics before that, so it seemed compatible. I tried it, and I loved it. If I had started earlier, I would probably be farther along, but I worked hard to get where I am right now."
Usually you know when you've hit a good dive. If I hit a good one, I celebrate a little under water.
Having played field hockey and netball back home, Vincent grew up enjoying team sports. While diving in college is a team sport, there is a lot of individual responsibility that made it appealing to her.
"I love team sports, so this was a different type of sport for me," Vincent said. "I love the adrenaline rush of doing this and being able to work within a team while still being able to do your own thing."
Training regimens in and out of the pool as well as weightlifting can take up as much as five hours per day, and Vincent added that there is a lot more to her sport than just plunges into the water.
"Diving requires a lot more strength and coordination than people realize," Vincent said. "You don't actually have to be a good swimmer to be a good diver. I'm not bad though."
Spinning and twisting in the air, making a perfect entry into the water, and not hitting your head on the board or platform seems like a lot to process as the mental game is a big part of the sport.
"I never get nervous during practice," Vincent said. "Maybe during meets I get a little nervous with the adrenaline running. I just try to keep focused and stay in the zone. I only allow myself to think positive thoughts. When I'm on the board, I'm just thinking about trying to get a good hurdle. That's the approach that we take on each dive. That's almost the whole dive. If you can get off to a good start, you can get a good dive. Usually you know when you've hit a good dive. If I hit a good one, I celebrate a little under water."
Vincent lists gainers or reverses as her favorite dives, and acknowledges she still needs to work on backwards rotations. She'll have plenty of help as South Carolina diving coach Todd Sherritt will be making the trip to South Africa with her.
"We're working really well together, so I'm happy about that," Vincent said. "The coaches here have prepared me really well, especially Todd. I couldn't have asked for a better coach. The rest of the swimming coaches are very supportive and encouraging."
Vincent hopes to compete in the Olympics someday, and when she is not competing, she also enjoys working with children. Vincent has been happy with her experience at South Carolina so far, and other than the time difference making it difficult to talk to friends and family back home, her adjustment to life in the United States has been pretty smooth.
"When I came on a trip here to visit, I absolutely loved it," Vincent said. "I just knew that I could advance my career here. There are not many indoor diving facilities back home. I knew coming here would be a good choice. It's more than being on a team. I have a family here. I love that environment."
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