I Interviewed the lovely Silver Medal Winning U.S.A Diving Olympian, Abby Johnston.
When did you start your diving career, and what inspired you?
I started when I was 13. I was a gymnast for many years but had to stop due to a back injury. Diving felt like a close substitution because I was able to flip and twist but it wasn’t as tough on my body to land in water.
How old were you when you started to compete on a competitive level?
I made my first Junior National Team at 15 and Senior National Team at 16 which was a pretty quick progression. It took a few years for me to reach the next level and become a strong competitor internationally. Competing collegiately was really helpful for my confidence and as a result, I think my international competitiveness improved tremendously by the time I was 20.
Did you ever have dreams of going to the Olympics growing up?
I watched the 1996 Olympic Games on TV and when I saw the Magnificent 7 gymnastics team win gold, I boldly declared to my parents "I'm going to do that when I grow up." I feel so blessed that my family is always supportive of my goals, no matter how big and far-off they may be.
How hard was the training process? Did you ever feel discouraged at times or felt living giving up? If so what motivated you to keep moving forward?
There have been many times where I didn't want to put in the hours that it would take to qualify for the Olympics or I doubted that I was capable. But then I would have a good practice/competition and be motivated again to keep moving forward. Being persistent in light of bad outcomes is what helped me become successful.
How long did you have to train for?
I trained twice a day, six days a week. I’d practice from 6:30-8 am, go to lab/class, return to practice for another 2 hours in the afternoon, go home to study, and then wake up and repeat. When pressed for time, it’s incredible how productive one can be. I watched lectures on the treadmill, answered conference calls about research while I was out of the country for a competition, and flipped through pharmacology flashcards while walking between the pool and the medical school.
What was it like attending a prestigious college, going to medical school, and balancing a diving career?
I think there's a misconception that I'm some sort of robot with super powers for doing medical school and Olympic diving at the same time but that couldn't be further from the truth. It was a hectic schedule and there were times I was completely in over my head. But it always seemed worthwhile because I truly enjoy being a student and athlete. And for the record, even the busiest person makes time for things that are important to them--I talk to my family every day, love watching football with my fiance, and trying new restaurants with my besties.
Who have been your biggest supporters throughout your career?
My parents have always been my biggest supporters and there's no way I could ever repay them for the sacrifices they made to help me reach my dream. They never complained about the endless carpools, costly travel schedule, and long hours spent at pools.
When did you first participate in the Olympics, which one has ultimately been your favorite?
I first competed in London 2012 and earned a silver medal in the Women's 3 meter Synchronized competition with Kelci Bryant. After the 2012 Olympic Games, my motivation to return to the sport was a roller coaster ride. Initially, I was dying to go back for another Games, then I had shoulder surgery and wasn't sure I'd be able to dive like I used to. I am so glad I pursue Rio 2016 because I feel like I matured so much as an athlete and was able to really enjoy my performance without as much pressure and nerves. It's hard to compare the two experiences because I love them both for very different reasons.
Did you ever feel scared or nervous while participating in the Olympics?
was nervous leading up to competition but as soon as the meet started, I was able to tune out the distractions and enjoy performing. That came with a lot of preparation-- practice meets and visualization.
How did it feel to be apart of the Olympics, and represent the United States of America?
I've never felt so proud to be an American when I heard them announce 'Representing The United States of America, Abby Johnston'. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
What medals have you received, do you keep them in a special place?
I earned a silver medal at the London Olympics and my mom keeps it because I have a terrible tendency to lose things. I actually met my fiancé because I lost my student ID and he found it.
What are your plans moving forward with your life?
I have a couple things on the horizon but I'm mostly trying not to plan to far ahead which is a new thing for me! I'm in my third year of medical school and hope to be an emergency medicine doctor when I graduate in May 2018. I'm getting married next summer to Sam McGrath and can't wait to see where life takes us.
What advice would you give to female athletes all around the world?
My advice is that there is no substitute for hard work. And that the most satisfying feeling is knowing you did everything you could to prepare, because that's something to be proud of regardless of the outcome.
Thank you so much Abby!