Friday was a good day for Team USA in the women’s three-meter springboard diving event at the Tokyo Olympics. 18-year-old Hailey Hernandez finished fifth in the preliminaries, easily advancing to the semifinal round, while Krysta Palmer just made the cut with a 15th place finish.
On Saturday, the American duo looked to punch their ticket to the gold medal final.
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After a rough start to her Summer Games, Palmer — who finished eighth in the synchronized three-meter springboard with partner Alison Gibson — has looked determined to have her Olympic moment. In the semifinals, she improved on her earlier performance in a major way, logging her two biggest scores of the individual competition.
She consequently finished the round in fifth place and advanced to the event final.
While she’s working hard to break through in Tokyo, the 29-year-old Palmer is definitely used to the fight. Her road to even get to the Olympics was nothing short of a battle.
Here are five fast facts you need to know about Palmer…
1. Palmer Suffered Major Injuries While Competing in Different Sports
As a child, the Carson City, Nevada native was a gymnast. And while her participation in the sport was a good way to keep her from “somersaulting off the couch,” as relayed by Team USA’s Karen Rosen, it resulted in a rare injury for someone of her age.
At just 12 years old, Palmer was forced to undergo her first surgery after tearing the patellar tendon of her left knee on a tumbling pass.
Later, Palmer became a high-level competitor on the trampoline. It was through that sport that she first found herself zeroing in on an Olympic team spot. However, she blew out her right knee on two separate occasions, tearing her ACL, MCL and LCL.
She later had hip problems as well.
2. She’s a Member of the Iron Butt Association
Nearly a decade before she became one of those rare athletes to compete in the Olympics, Palmer joined another exclusive group. Namely, the Iron Butt Association (IBA).
Formed in 1984, the IBA is a loose association of motorcycle riders who have participated in at least one of a number of long-distance rides. The minimum is the 1,000-mile Saddle Sore, a distance that must be covered in 24 hours or less.
In Palmer’s case, she rode 1,200 miles behind her father on June 10, 2012. As the pair traversed the distance, they had to hit designated locations, “prowling around graveyards in the middle of the night and taking selfies next to road signs.”
“It was pretty wild,” Palmer said, via Rosen. “It was basically a scavenger hunt on a motorcycle. Iron Butt is true because it is painful sitting on a motorcycle for almost 24 hours.”
3. Palmer Is a Fixture of the UNR Diving Program
As a collegiate diver, Palmer found major success with the University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack. And her association with the school continues today.
Her junior season with the Wolf Pack was one of the best in Nevada history. First she captured three titles at the Mountain West Conference Championships. From there, Palmer advanced to the 2015 NCAA Championships, becoming an All-American honorable mention.
The following year, she snagged the 2015-16 Ruth Russell Award, recognizing Nevada’s top senior female student-athlete. Palmer received the honor after leading her team to a perfect 10-0 dual record and capturing the first conference championship in program history.
She also attained All-Mountain West and NCAA All-American honorable mention status, as well as a second-straight Diver of the Year designation in her conference.
After graduating with a degree in kinesiology, she transitioned to a role as a volunteer assistant coach.
4. Her Grandfather Was Also a High-Level, Multi-Sport Athlete
Palmer isn’t the only top-notch athlete to come out of her family circle. Her grandfather, Norman Palmer, was similarly multi-faceted. Per his 2014 obituary, he became New England’s youngest Class A ski racer at just 14 years old. It was noted in Krysta’s Team USA bio that he eventually earned a spot on the US national ski team.
He was also a professional baseball player, spending a short time in the Minor League ranks.
Norman was a skilled golfer as well. For two years, he was the daily golfing partner of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He later wrote a book about his friendship with the commander-in-chief, “Five Star Golf.”
5. Palmer Found Her Way as a Fledgling Diver With the Help of a Top Coach
Palmer didn’t officially make the transition to diving until 2012. Before then, the last time she had dived was when she was just 12 years old, per the Reno Gazette-Journal. However, her background in trampoline and gymnastics proved invaluable in making the jump.
Moreover, she had the help of an elite coach in Jian Li You at UNR.
Herself a former diver and member of the Chinese Olympic Team in 1980, You is a nine-time conference Coach of the Year in the Mountain West and WAC. She also trained legendary divers like Olympic gold medalist Fu Mingxia, Tan Luengdai, Su Suwi, Lon Wei and Americans Becky Ruehl, Mary Ellen Clark, Scott Donie and Dave Pichler.
“Being able to meet Jian Li has been a blessing,” Palmer told the Gazette-Journal. “She’s literally the best coach in the nation. She’s really built me. It’s like building a new car. She’s built me as a diver. She has such a unique personality. She’s all business when you’re at the pool, which is great. She’s very technical. When you’re outside of the pool, she’s your best friend. Honestly, being able to make her proud makes me so happy.”