On Wednesday evening, American diver Delaney Schnell could inch closer to capturing her second medal of the Tokyo Olympics. Along with fellow Team USA diver Katrina Young, the 22-year-old Schnell will compete in the women’s individual 10-meter platform semifinal.
With a strong showing there, she’ll book a spot in the final with a chance to join Krysta Palmer — who just won bronze in the three-meter springboard event — as the only American women to capture individual diving medals since Laura Wilkinson the Sydney Games in 2000.
As it stands, she looks to be in a strong position to do so. Her combined score of 360.75 ranked No. 3 overall during the preliminary round. Moreover, she finished just four points behind China’s Quan Hongchan at No. 2.
Chen Yuxi, also of China, posted the top score of the round.
With Schnell’s double-up opportunity looming, here are five facts you need to know about the Iron Mountain, Michigan product.
1. Before Turning to Diving, She Was a Top-Notch Gymnast
Schnell’s gymnastics background is not entirely unique; others have made the move from that sport to diving — including Palmer. Unlike most, however, she was good enough to train with the coaches who put US Gymnastics on the map.
As relayed by the Pac-12’s Aimee Berg, Schnell was so talented in the floor exercise and on the vault as a youngster that she was invited to attend a training camp at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas. Of course, Bela and Marta Karolyi were longtime coaches for the US national team who trained multiple Olympic champions.
During her time there, she was able to see 2008 Olympic gold and silver medalist Shawn Johnson choreographing her floor routines.
In the end, though, the experience made her reconsider the gymnastics path.
“Honestly, that [week] is kind of what burned me out of gymnastics because it was a lot of training for someone who was eight or nine years old,” she said.
2. Schnell Is a Multi-Event Star
Earlier in the Olympic Games, Schnell teamed up with Jessica Parratto to capture the silver in the women’s synchronized 10-meter platform competition. It was an incredible turn of events for the pair, considering that they are still new partners.
Schnell was partnered with Tarrin Gilliland before she suffered an untimely injury just weeks before the US Olympic Trials. Parratto, meanwhile, had previously teamed with Amy Cozad; the duo finished in seventh place in the 10-meter synchro event in the 2016 Rio Games.
In addition to the individual and synchro 10m platform diving event, Schnell has also competed on the 3m and 1m springboard. However, she prefers platform events due to her gymnastics background.
“Platform is definitely what I prefer,” she told Berg. “In gymnastics, you land on solid ground” — as opposed to a springboard that can throw off a competitor’s timing.
3. Schnell and Her Synchro Partner Share a Tea Obsession
Schnell and Parratto didn’t just bond as synchro partners, they also happen to be very similar people. According to Schnell, their mutual love of a particular beverage was one of the many things that helped bring them together.
“I’m a very big tea drinker when it comes to competition,” Schnell told Tuscon.com. “It’s funny because Jess is actually a tea drinker, too.”
The two are apparently so enamored with tea that having a way to prepare and drink it in Tokyo was an important topic of discussion between them.
“She has her tea drawer and I have my tea drawer and so we’re both really excited about that. She even messaged me the other day and was like, ‘What if I bought an electric collapsible tea kettle?’ I was like, ‘I think we get one there, but maybe I might be interested in that, just in case.’”
4. She’s an Arizona Wildcat
Although she was born in Michigan, Schnell is a Tuscon girl at heart. As such, it was an easy decision for her to forgo offers to matriculate to Texas, Indiana, Florida State and Purdue in order to join the collegiate diving team at Arizona in 2017, per her Wildcats bio.
She went on to capture Pac-12 Women’s Freshman Diver of the Year honors. That year, she finished sixth in the 1m at the NCAA Championships, netting All-America honors as well.
As a sophomore, she finished first in the 3m and platform dives at the NCAA Championships and was also a Pac-12 All-Academic Second Team selection. Just as she did in her first year, she also logged the highest score in all three of the events her team competed in.
After missing the 2019-20 season, Schnell returned in 2020-21 to become the Pac-12 Diver of the Year. She earned that distinction by becoming a conference champion in the 1m and platform events. She was also the runner-up on the platform at the NCAAs, while finishing fourth in the 1m.
5. Schnell Credits Her College Coach for Building Her Up
Schnell’s gymnastics background and years of diving experience have definitely buoyed her in Tokyo. However, her tutelage at the hands of Arizona’s head diving coach, Dwight Dumais, has been a factor as well. Last month, she told Berg that he is “by far” the most influential person in her diving career.
“He really knows what he’s talking about,” Schnell said. “He brought a lot of confidence to my diving. He’s helped me mentally, too. Not a lot of coaches in the past have worked with me on that. They worked more with technique, getting in a lot of [repetitions] and training really hard. But Dwight was very much about: Let’s learn how to make you a better competitor. That was missing in my career.”
For his part, Dumais is part of a decorated diving family. Before his transition to coaching, he was an All-American diver as a collegiate at Stanford and participated in two US Olympics Trials. Meanwhile, his brothers Justin and Troy were Olympians.