Diving for Gold
Karie Bennett, stylist, writer and owner of Atelier SalonSpa and Atelier Studio in San Jose, California
After 30 years as a hairdresser and half of those as a salon owner, I decided to revisit an old interest: writing. I began this new path with a magazine writing class in the Continuing Studies program at Stanford University, and one of my fellow classmates was Cassidy Krug. This summer, Cassidy made the U.S. Olympic Diving Team, so I asked her for an interview and sent her off to London with a fresh haircut.
Cassidy Krug is a really good writer. This is something I know firsthand. During our Stanford writing class, her articles were always well written, interesting, and relevant. She was quiet, friendly, and her comments on other student’s work were useful. She briefly mentioned she was a platform diver, which explained the ponytailed wet hair she always arrived to class with.
There’s something else I know about Cassidy: she has been training for the Olympics practically her whole life. Her parents are both diving coaches, and she attended her first diving meet when she was just 1 week old. You could say she was born into the sport. She’s won 11 national championships, and qualified for the Olympic team by winning the 3-meter springboard at the U.S. trials in June. I don’t know firsthand if she’s as good of a diver as she is a writer, (I haven’t seen her dive yet but my DVR is set for the August 3rd and 5th Olympic diving events) but I have confidence that the Olympic diving committee made the right call.
I asked Cassidy if I could interview her before she headed out to London. I figured that after the Olympics, her life would probably take a big turn, and life would be different. I would get a much different interview at that point. I wanted to know what it was like to be on the brink of such a life-changing event in a young athlete’s life. She was very generous with her time and very open to my questions, including the effects of chlorine on hair and skin.
Karie Bennett and diver Cassidy Krug, months before Krug competes in the 2012 Olympics.
KB: Cassidy, what are 5 things people would be surprised to know about you?
CK: Good question!
- My first love was gymnastics. I wanted to be a gymnast, but diving gradually won out, and I switched sports when I was 15.
- I have become known as the person who will eat anything. When I was in China diving, I ate chicken feet, turtle, and sea cucumber. I like to experience the culture of whatever country I'm in.
- I'm creative, and I love making things. I took a drawing class in college. Diving in lasts just for a moment, which is probably why I like creating something more permanent, like art.
- I've been journaling for a long time. I try to write everyday, whether it's what happened that day, or just poetry, changing the lyrics to my favorite song, writing about places I want to go. I use 750words.com a lot. It’s a website that gives you an incentive to write everyday.
- I have a younger brother, Kyle, who doesn’t dive—he plays tennis, and has never been interested in diving.
KB: Were you named after David Cassidy?
CK: Haha! I actually may have been named after Mama Cass.
KB: What would be the theme of an article you might write about yourself?
CK: It would probably be about my journey, specifically focusing on the last nine years at Stanford. I've also had a lot of questions about growing up in the sport. But the work that I've done from college on is a bit more interesting. I didn't think I could ever dream about the Olympics. I think it would be interesting to write about learning how to put the work in to get the result out.
KB: Tell me 5 things people don't know about your sport?
CK: Another good question!
- It's a small world sport. I know most of my competitors, since I see everyone once a year at our international meet.
- People ask if I'm afraid. How do I even do the dives? Before I learned a 3 and 1/2 pike I had to learn a front 2 and ½ pike. Had to learn somersaults on the ground, how to enter the water without a splash. [Writer’s note: entering the water with as small a splash as possible is called a ‘Rip’.] It's not so scary because I've done all the pieces, now I just put them all together.
- Dives are graded on a DOD, or degree of difficulty. There's a formula that is used that takes into consideration how many twists, somersaults, what position—tuck, pike, straight—go into the dive. In my event, the DOD’s range from 1.5 to 4.0. Mine will fall into the highest degree of DOD at the Olympics. I’m going for it!
- This sport is all about jumping high and spinning fast. Thank goodness that’s where my strength lies.
- We train really hard. When I'm in peak training, I'll do 10-12 reps of my dives every day.
KB: What kind of specific training do you do for platform diving?
CK: We do a lot of weights for strong legs and cores to hold the positions. We need strong arms to withstand the water entry as well. Diving from 10 meters, you are going 30 mph. That’s a lot of impact, a lot of G force.
KB: What is your 'breakfast of champions'?
CK: Cereal with yogurt and milk and fruit.
KB: What is your favorite food when you're training?
CK: When we’re training, we don't have time to eat much, we just stay hydrated, and eat energy bars. I’m on a thai food kick right now, and I’m not super strict since I burn a lot of calories training. I am careful, since this is an aesthetic sport and I need to consider that.
KB: 3 meter is scary! What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
CK: I don't generally get scared. I started so young that I don't have the fear. I love roller coasters, love rock climbing—although my brother and I were climbing cliffs in Sea Ranch, north of San Francisco and we got stuck on the rocks. That really was scary!
KB: What is your daily mantra?
CK: When diving is concerned, it helps to think of it as a privilege. I'm so lucky to be able to be in the sport at this level. I'm trying to be the best in the world. That’s amazing!
KB: What are you saying to yourself when you get up on the board?
CK: In competition, I try to keep it simple and condensed. It's hard to do. I try really hard to focus on the dive and my body knows what it's doing. I think of one or two specific actions to do. Close out the world and let my body do what it does best.
KB: What keeps you up at night?
CK: I have periods of not sleeping well, but what worries me is generally that you can do all the training in the world, but on that day, it’s all about the performance. It's exciting and nerve-wracking. I also go over each dive in my mind, and visualize purposefully. It actually relaxes me.
KB: Since you quit working to train for the Olympics, how are you supporting yourself?
CK: I’m basically using my savings. I planned ahead so I could support myself while I was training. I get a small stipend from U.S. Diving. The Olympic Committee takes care of everything while we are in London.
KB: Okay, I’m putting my salon hat on now. Chlorine is hard on hair and skin. What is your routine to help fight the damaging effects?
CK: I was wondering when you were going to ask! We have just started to wear swim caps in my sport. It used to be unheard of, almost embarrassing. I put conditioner on my hair before I go into the pool. I wash with an anti-chlorine shampoo afterwards. The big problem with swim caps for diving is that the cap falls off and everything stops till you put it back on. The silicone ones can slip off really easily when you hit the water. Karie, I need you tell me what you think I should do! Once the Olympics are over, I plan to retire from the sport, so I’ll be ready to have a chlorine-free head of hair. I don't usually have much of a beauty routine-it doesn't make sense to spend a whole lot of time getting pretty when you're just going to jump in the pool again in a few hours. So I like when I actually have a reason (and the time) to put on some makeup, do my hair and go out!
KB: I can help you with that. How about a post-Olympics makeover?
Cassidy has obviously donated her hair to her sport. Hair really isn’t her focus right now, winning a gold medal is! After the Olympics, her plan is to retire from the sport. She has an English degree from Stanford and hopes to continue writing, and possibly work in the publishing world.
CK: Sounds great. Let’s do it!
KB: Okay, back to the beauty questions. Do you wear sunscreen?
CK: I hate to admit it, but I just apply it on my face. It’s a losing battle being in and out of the water all day. I need to get better at that. Again, after the Olympics.
KB: How about your skin, does it get dry from the constant water exposure?
CK: My skin is super dry! I use body lotion, and lots of it. I just figure that at some point I’ll be able to have moisturized, soft skin. During diving training isn’t one of those times.
KB: Do you use any specialized hair treatments?
CK: I used to do a once a week deep conditioning at home, but the constant chlorine took its toll. My hair would just break off on the ends. It's just how it is. Wearing a swim cap helps a lot.
KB: You’re in such great shape, do you like shopping for clothes?
CK: I have an athletic figure, and not all clothes are made for women with muscles. Sometimes it's hard to find the right fit, and some styles (like cap sleeves, eew) just don't work. But I think that's probably the same with most women—not everything looks good on everyone.
KB: You grew up in the diving world, with both of your parents being diving coaches, and you were at your first meet when you were a week old. So making the Olympic team is the culmination of a lifetime of interest and effort. Here you are, pre-Olympics. I want to try to capture all of that into this article. I don't mean to add any more pressure, but if you could distill the joy, the emotion, the feelings into one word or one sentence, what would it be?
CK: Surreal. Getting asked for autographs is something I’m working towards getting used to.
KB: At the end of it all, you're just Cassidy, right? What do you want to say to people that just comes from your heart?
CK: Find something you love to do then work for it. Life’s too short to do stuff you don't enjoy. Don't be afraid to work hard for something.