COLUMBIA - Missouri diving coach Jamie Sweeney has witnessed David Bonuchi execute thousands of dives in his ten years as Bonuchi’s coach.
But the acrobatic feat Bonuchi pulled off in Tuesday’s practice tops the list.
“It was the best dive he’s ever done,” Sweeney said. “It’s called a reverse three and a half.”
“It felt so good, too,” Bonuchi said.
After completing one of the most successful seasons in Missouri diving history as a sophomore last year, Bonuchi said he hopes to finish first on the platform at this year’s NCAA Championships.
Yet Bonuchi’s ultimate goal looms much larger than anything he could achieve at the collegiate level.
“We’ll be going into the 2016 Olympic trials with the expectation of making the team,” Sweeney said.
On Monday, Bonuchi was named as one of 26 divers on the USA Diving's Olympic Performance Squad. That came just months after he finished fourth on the platform at the U.S. Olympic Trials, narrowly missing an opportunity to participate in the London 2012 Olympic games.
Under the direction of Sweeney, Bonuchi said his 2016 Olympic dreams are within reach.
Sweeney remembered a 10-year-old Bonuchi first learning the fundamentals of diving on what is now a parking lot adjacent to Missouri's Trulaske College of Business.
“I started coaching club diving and he just signed up,” Sweeney said. “I think someone who knows a little bit about diving saw him messing around in an outdoor pool and told him he needed to sign up for diving.”
The same plot of land where Missouri students feed change to parking meters then served as the diving team’s practice facility.
“It was literally the worst Division I natatorium in the whole country,” Sweeney said. “It was awful.”
Bonuchi’s talent became readily apparent toward the end of practice when the young diver was allowed to attempt any trick he could imagine, according to Sweeney.
“You know how kids get a rush off these extreme sports?” Sweeney asked. “It was kind of like that’s why he wanted to dive. He had to go through all the technical stuff in practice so he could get to the end and play. He would just try to one-up his buddies.”
Bonuchi said he immediately developed a love for the sport. To him, diving was unadulterated fun.
“It was just about getting to jump around on boards,” he said.
Under Sweeney's tutelage, Bonuchi became one of the nation’s best divers in his age group, capturing three state championships at Hickman High School.
He received scholarship offers from Auburn, Pittsburgh, Miami and Michigan, but chose to sign with Missouri.
“I didn’t really want to stay home but I knew that I’d have a great coach,” Bonuchi said. “I knew he was going to set up a program for me week by week and month by month that will get me farther to my overall goal, which is the Olympics.”
These days, Sweeney and Bonuchi work together in the Mizzou Aquatics Center, the state-of-the-art swimming and diving facility completed in 2005. There, Sweeney and Bonuchi train in preparation for NCAA Championships, World Championships, and the duo’s ultimate goal: the 2016 Olympics.
Both said the road to Rio de Janeiro would be navigable as long as they relied on each other.
“Neither of us can get there without the other one,” Sweeney said.
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