Three-time national diving champion Olivia Rosendahl has been recruited by Northwestern University to join their team in fall 2015. Rosendahl is also prequalified for the Olympic trials in the summer of 2016.
On Wednesday, the Immaculate Heart High School senior signed her commitment papers to the school. She is the current CIF-Southern Section Division III record holder in one-meter diving with 585.30 points and has won the event as a freshman and a junior, setting Division III records both times.
“I started diving when I was six and I used to take swimming lessons at the Rose Bowl,” the 17-year-old said. “After the lesson they would let you jump off the diving board for fun, and I jumped off one day, and I did a flip or something and the diving coach came over to me and said, ‘Oh, you have to be a diver.’ I started competing when I was nine.”
Rosendahl has been participating in national competitions since 2007. In September, she represented the United States in the International Swimming Federation World Junior Championships in Russia, where she placed 13th in her event. Rosendahl also attended the Pan American Sports Festival in Mexico City that month, placing 4th in synchronized women’s platform diving and 8th in women’s platform diving.
The school celebrated Wednesday with a signing ceremony on the Immaculate Heart campus with her parents Daniel Rosendahl and Dr. Anne Kosco.
“We’re just so happy for her on choosing a great school,” her father said. Olivia is the oldest child in the family, with a younger sister getting into diving as a freshman at Immaculate Heart.
Athletic Director Maureen Rodriguez is in her 27th year at Immaculate Heart, and noted that it has been in the last 10 years that the school experiences one or two NCAA signings a year.
“She beat everyone [out] of the ninety-five divers between Division 1 and 4,” Rodriguez said. “She beat out the best Division 1 diver by 25 points.”
Rodriguez added that Rosendahl is “very well grounded” and even a little shy, while also ranking in the top 10 of her academic class.
“She knows she’s good and doesn’t flaunt it,” Rodriguez said. “She’s going to be a huge difference at Northwestern.”
The reason Rosendahl chose the Evanston, Ill. school is simple, she said.
“The moment I stepped on the campus, I felt it was where I belonged,” Rosendahl said. “The team is great. The coach is great and they are very supportive there.”
Rosendahl practices with the USC Trojan Dive Club six days a week and heads to competitions for Immaculate Heart, all while being a full-time student.
“It was kind of hard,” Rosendahl said. “I was traveling a lot in early fall. I kept up with my work when I was in other countries and making up tests when I can. I’m used to it.”
Former U.S. Olympian Hongping Li, who is also the USC head diving coach, has mentored Rosendahl since she started in the sport.
“What I’ve learned from him is that if you smack on a dive and miss, and you just come up laughing, it can only get better,” she said. “It’s one mistake and you can learn from them.”
Rosendahl has learned from her mistakes as well. In 2013, she was competing in nationals and had a bad preliminary round. She ended up in 12th place and barely made the finals. Surprisingly, she came back and won.
“It was really weird,” she said. “I was in the worst place I could be in. I couldn’t get down. You have to motivate yourself to do your best.”
One of Rosendahl’s most challenging dives was an inward three-and-a-half off a 10-meter platform in a December 2013 competition.
“You stand backwards and you rotate forwards,” she said. “It’s three-and-a-half flips. It’s hard to see the dive for me, and it’s more of a mental thing. I’ve smacked, landing flat on the water.”
A dive that Rosendahl has mastered since age 13 is the reverse two-and-a-half somersault, where she jumps forward off the platform and spins backwards two-and-a-half times.
Divers get scored on a one to 10 scale with 10 being the highest. The degree of difficulty of the dive performed weighs in the judge’s scoring.
“It’s a certain amount of easy dives and a certain amount of hard dives,” Rosendahl said. “You get three scores by a bunch of different judges, which are averaged [and] then multiplied by the degree of difficulty.”
The Olympic team trials will be held at Indiana University in June 2016, and will to determine which divers will represent the U.S. in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Rosendahl will be competing against more than 100 of the nation’s best divers for five spots.
The excited yet humble diver said she tells younger athletes to have fun and not to let competition affect your personality.
“If you mess up on a dive, it’s one dive,” she said. “Push by it.”
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