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How Divers Krysta Palmer and Alison Gibson Made History At The 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Chloe Park

Krysta Palmer (left) and Alison Gibson (right) on the first day after finals at the Olympic Team Trials-Diving.

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials, diving in Indianapolis on June 10, 2021, witnessed a remarkable feat as Alison Gibson and Krysta Palmer secured their spots to represent Team USA in the 2020 Tokyo Games. This dynamic duo, with ages bridging a seven-year gap, became the first American divers to recently qualify for the synchronized 3-meter springboard event of the 2023 USA Diving Winter National Championships after competing for the first time for over two years.

Palmer’s path to the Olympics was unconventional, adding a layer to her diving career. Transitioning from competitive trampolining to diving at the age of 20, Palmer, an alumna of Western Nevada College (WNC), earned a bronze medal in the 3-meter springboard diving. The decision to navigate this shift, coupled with the aspiration to become an Olympic medalist, set the stage for a remarkable journey. Alison Gibson, a 22-year-old rising star, and Krysta Palmer dazzled spectators with their synchronized precision throughout the trials. Their performance was evident, reaching its peak after a flawless fifth dive, securing their Tokyo-bound status. Gibson, reflecting on this moment, expressed, “I hit the water, and I was like, ‘okay, I’m pretty sure it was good enough.’ I just wanted to give Krysta a hug.”

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, despite initially placing eighth in the synchronized 3-meter springboard event alongside diving partner Gibson, Palmer utilized the break before her individual event to hone her skills and prepare for the challenges that lay ahead. The semifinals of the 3-meter springboard presented Palmer with a formidable task — qualifying in 14th place out of 18 divers. Facing a prior setback with a shoulder injury, Kassidy Bacon and Sarah Cook narrowed the gap, cutting the margin to 14.25 points. However, Gibson and Palmer steadily rebuilt their lead, finishing with a commanding 29.82-point cushion by the final dive and a fifth-place finish, setting a gripping final against competitors.

“Obviously, we’re competing against other teams,” Gibson remarked, “but it’s really us trying to put on a show for y’all and do the best we can.” 

Palmer, leading the individual 3-meter event after the semifinals, expressed confidence in their dive choice, 5154B, a forward 2 ½ somersaults with two twists. “It’s a hard dive for women to do, and there’s not very many girls that do this dive, let alone synchronized teams,” she noted. “For us to be bringing this onto an internal stage will be really good for USA Diving.”

In the finals, the pair stood on the podium, and both delivered a heroic performance. Each dive was executed with precision, culminating in the clinching of the bronze medal, a mere five points shy of the silver. Palmer, with limited Olympic experience compared to her counterparts, along with Gibson, joined the ranks of Olympians selected since 1984. They received Olympic rings from Laura Wilkinson and Michele Mitchell, two legends in diving history. This achievement marked a historic moment for the U.S. Olympic Diving Team, with Palmer being the first American woman to medal in the 3-meter event since 1988 and the first U.S. woman to medal in individual diving since 2000. 

“Someday if my kids are like, ‘Mom, you’re not cool,” Gibson jokingly added, “I can be like, ‘I’m an Olympian though.’” As they prepare to dive on the international stage, the synchronized 3-meter springboard event promises not only competitive prowess but a dazzling display of artistry and skill from Team USA. The legacy of Gibson and Palmer is etched alongside the greats, and fans eagerly anticipate their performance.


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