Dead silence. So it must be. Cell phones silenced, babies distant. They don’t want any distractions. We could do it with noise, but it can be dangerous, and they don’t want accidents. They stare, watching every move made. Walking over, cool air breathes over me, inducing a slight shiver. A bead of water rolls down my forehead, down my cheek, settling on the edge of my jaw, I wipe it away, flicking it far. I must exude confidence; I must know my abilities and trust in them. My nerves are ice, this is hard. I know that I can do it, but knowledge and execution are two separate things. The girl before me finishes. Scores given. My turn. I walk to the board; five steps, apprehension, excitement, nerves, eyes watching, ego. The intensity of the moment creates energy in the air, near tangible. My hands grip the fulcrum, the textured grip digging into my hands, nearly scraping off the skin. Slowly, I adjust it to right between the number “3” and the number “4”. Not too much bounce. Just enough. It must be precise. I am satisfied, feigning calmness. I climb up on the board, look to my right. Three judges. To my left, the announcer. I listen. Silence. It’s my turn now, completely. All watch me. I feel the eyes, the pressure, the tension. I must succeed. I step up. I feel the board beneath my feet, rough, I will not slip. Like sandpaper, it grips the calluses it formed on my feet. It feels familiar. The announcer begins, “Anne Merrill, dive four-o-two C, inward one somersault tuck.” He looks at me expectantly, smiles. I smile back, and hope for the best. I walk to the end of the board, slowly, with care. It comes too soon. I’m at the end. I slowly turn around, clockwise; I always turn clockwise. I look down, place my feet. Left first, as always, my big toe placed next to that small, linear, diagonal hole. On the right side, symmetrically, my right toe on a similar hole. I know there’s no turning back. I raise my arms slowly above my head. I must remain balanced. My toes and balls of my feet are the only part of me touching the board. I mentally list all the components I must remember. Hips back. Arms narrow and straight. Jump up. Kick heels. Throw arms into tuck. Stay tight. Legs together. Toes pointed. Don’t think. The list is endless; I must rely on muscle memory and trust in myself to succeed. After all, I know what I’m doing. It seems to take forever; I swing my arms, bend my knees, jump upward, throw forward and let my body carry me through. I expect pain. I’ve messed this up countless times, smacking my body ruthlessly upon the water. I can only hope my muscles have learned. The rest passes as a blur. My brain steps back for a split second, transferring control to a natural feeling. Feet first, I enter, arms by my side, like a plank. The water is cold, I’m sinking, and I’m ecstatic because I know I did well; my dive felt right. That is the best way to tell. I swim up, a smile on my face. I stick my face out, take a deep breath, and hear applause. Wiping the globules of water off my face, I’m proud and content. There is nothing better than to have thrown a dive well. Scores 5, 4.5, and 5, I am pleased. I rarely score that well. I look to Coach as I slowly swim to the side, and he gives me thumbs up. This is the best, because approval from him means more because he knows the tendencies, the emotions, the heart behind each girl and each dive. I love it.
December 24, 2010