Most of the divers in the 11-and-under category at the Junior Olympic Diving Championships had trained and dived competitively for two to four years.
David Bonuchi, 11, had trained for six months and was competing in his second meet.
Despite his inexperience, Bonuchi finished 12th on the 1-meter board and 15th on the 3-meter board April 23-24 in San Antonio.
Bonuchi's talent helped by gymnastics
Bonuchi began diving when he was 2 and has been a member of organized gymnastics groups at times since he was 3.
“From gymnastics I liked flipping and stuff, so from there I just started getting into diving and swimming,” Bonuchi said.
David and his brother Daniel Bonuchi, 9, joined the Mizzou Diving Club six months ago to train with Missouri diving coach Greg Triefenbach.
David developed a ganglion cyst in his right wrist two years ago that kept him out of gymnastics, but his father, Jim Bonuchi, did not want his son’s talent to go to waste.
MU's Coach Triefenbach picked David from the crowd
The family attended a Missouri diving lesson in October, and David quickly caught Triefenbach’s attention.
“We knew immediately when we saw him that he was talented,” Triefenbach said.
David took advantage of some open minutes near the end of the lesson to attempt a flip with a twist off the 3-meter board.
“I just flipped some weird way, and (Triefenbach) was like, ‘Tight,’” David said.
Triefenbach recognized David’s potential as well and offered to help develop his talents.
After a few intersquad meets with the Clayton Diving Club, David and Daniel competed in their first competition at the Zone Regional Championships April 2-3 in Evanston, Ill.
“I thought he was very talented when he came up, but I didn’t know how he stood up to the rest of the country,” Triefenbach said.
David surprised the competition by winning the 1-meter with 145.30 points, and finished second on the 3-meter board with 147.10.
“We had no real expectations of what he would do,” Triefenbach said. “He showed up and won.”
Daniel was one of the youngest competitors in Evanston and also dived well, finishing 13th in the 1-meter.
“I did my dives but I was struggling with my back dive tuck,” Daniel said.
The top six finishers from each of the five regionals moved on to the West National Championships.
“Since it was (David’s) first competition it was just good to find out what he was competing against,” said Katherine Bonuchi, David and Daniel’s mother. “He’s won all his meets … so he never really knew what was out there.”
At the National Championships, David’s front double flip, his favorite dive, helped him to 124.5 points.
David was in eighth place in the 3-meter competition before his final dive.
He overrotated on his front 2 ½ flip and finished 15th with 120.30 points.
“We talked with other coaches down there and they (said) he shouldn’t be there,” Katherine Bonuchi said. “Most kids train for three or four years before they get to go.”
David was as unfazed from the comments as he is from jumping off a 10-meter platform.
“The coaches would say, ‘You’re here now so you’re pretty lucky’ and ‘you need to appreciate the moment,’” Jim Bonuchi said.
David looks forward to a future in diving
David, a sixth-grader at Lange Middle School, will move up to the 12-year-old division this summer. He plans to continue diving and looks to win next year.
“He has the potential to be one of the best in the country if he sticks with it,” Triefenbach said.
David practices three times a week at the Natatorium at MU, but will practice five times during the summer.
Daniel will also practice this summer, but not as intensely as his brother.
David said he never has any problems finding his position while he is flipping in the air.
“It’s all about having fun,” David said. “It’s very fun. You’re like an eagle.”