Stanford diver looks to soar to new heightsBy Mark Soltau December 12, 2011, 5:13 pm
“I know where my classes are, where the pool is, and where I live,” he said this week. “That’s about it.”
For now, that’s enough for the talented freshman diver from Walnut Creek, California. No male diver has entered the program with more promise than Ipsen, a 16-time junior national champion, eight-time senior national champion, three-time junior world champion, 2009 World Championships silver medalist in synchronized 3-meter, and 2010 World Cup silver medalist in synchronized 3-meter.
Cardinal diving coach Rick Schavone, who has mentored 89 All-Americans, said Ipsen has Gregory Louganis-type potential. No small claim, considering Louganis won four Olympic gold medals and five World Championships.
“Remember, when Greg dove, the Chinese weren’t part of the picture,” said Schavone, a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year. “Will he (Ipsen) ever dominate the Chinese? No. Will he ever win all those gold medals? Maybe, maybe not. But in this country, he could be dominating.”
Ipsen is flattered to be compared to Louganis and will never forget their first meeting. It came during a camp in Indianapolis when he was 10.
“I was going for my second practice and lot of the older kids skipped it to go to an Indiana Hoosiers football game,” Ipsen said. “Greg was at the camp and it was just him and me for about two hours. He actually got up on the 3-meter platform and was coaching and talking to me through each of my dives. It was a really cool moment.”
How does Ipsen feel about the Louganis comparison?
“It’s an honor,” he said. “A lot of people kind of put us together because of the way we dive and our lines in the air. But if I even accomplish one-quarter of what he did in his career, I would be thrilled.”
Schavone is grooming the 5-foot-7 Ipsen for the London 2012 Olympic Games, where he could qualify for individual or synchronized events.
“Our goal with him is to put him on the team this year and hopefully he can medal in the synchronized event,” he said. “But in 2016, I’m going for a medal in the individual. He’s definitely the most accomplished diver I’ve ever coached.”
Ipsen is taking things one day and one dive at a time.
“The Olympics is a lot of pressure,” said Ipsen. “It’s a really a small team. Of course, I would really, really like to make it. But in diving, anything can happen at the trials. Hopefully, I can continue training and make the team. If not, I’m going to keep working for 2016.”
Ipsen started diving when he was six years old. He started out as a gymnast because he enjoyed flipping and jumping on the trampoline.
“I also loved the water, so my parents wanted me to try swimming,” said Ipsen. “I tried it, but I just got bored going back and forth, so we kind of put the two together and found diving.”
Ipsen’s specialty is a reverse twister—a reverse 1½ with 3½ twists. If an average human being attempted such a dive, they would wind up looking like a pretzel . . . or in a hospital.
“He’s a great, great athlete,” Schavone said. “He has great awareness, is quick, powerful, and very, very coordinated. When God puts it in, it’s pretty easy to coach it.”
Admittedly, Ipsen used diving to attract a top university. He started diving at Stanford during the summers at age 9 and fell in love with the school.
“In junior meets, they would have platform diving,” he said. “The facility is great and the campus is beautiful. I felt like it was the best of both worlds, with academics and sports.”
Ipsen, who attended De La Salle High School, is also excited about competing for Stanford, where he and highly-touted fellow frosh Connor Kuremsky should add to an already talented team.
“It’s awesome,” said Ipsen. “Connor and I have been competing against each other for a long time. Connor works really hard in practices and gives it his all. So I think it’s good to be surrounded by people in practice like that. It just pushes me to do the same and get the most out of every single dive.”
For Ipsen, the best part about his sport is being able to travel around the world.
“I’ve been to China four times,” he said. “It’s also taken me to Germany, Malaysia, and some crazy places. I wish I could actually see more of where I go, but a lot of times it’s just the hotel and pool and back.”
Ipsen has been bothered by a sore back the last several weeks, but expects to compete in the U.S. Winter Nationals/World Cup Trials this week in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“So that’s kind of nerve-racking,” said Ipsen.
The good news is that he has settled into college life.
“Time management and trying to balance everything,” Ipsen said of his biggest adjustments. “Getting more organized has been a challenge for me. I feel like I’ve kind of gotten the hang of it.”