Ipsen stays humble despite success
Sophomore adds 1-meter title to go with Olympic medal
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Kristian Ipsen emerged from the pool after his final 1-meter dive Thursday night, the only sound to be heard inside the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI was this: "Kristian, Kristian, Kristian!"
He didn't even have to look at the judge's scores on the electronic scoreboard. The shouts coming from the Stanford spectator section was evidence enough of his second career NCAA championship in diving.
On top of the awards podium, 2012 Olympic teammate Nick McCrory of Duke congratulated Ipsen and showed a big smile. Best buddies do that.
"We've always competed against each other since we were like 10," Ipsen said. "He's one of my best friends."
The best might still be to come for Ipsen at the Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. Ipsen's strongest event, his Olympic event, is the 3-meter and that will take place on Friday, followed by the platform diving competition on Saturday.
Ipsen won all three disciplines at the NCAA Zone Diving Championships qualifier, and also won the 1- and 3-meter diving titles at the Pac-12 championships. He won a bronze medal in 3-meter synchronized at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but here's the thing: Stanford diving coach Rick Schavone says Ipsen is even stronger now than he was at the Olympics.
"His strength has improved tremendously," Schavone said.
Thursday's performance displayed that. Ipsen's 1-meter win broke 2012 Olympian David Boudia's championship record set in 2010. Ipsen scored 473.75 points, breaking Boudia's record by more than five points. McCrory scored 436.60 and finished second.
"I feel better," Ipsen said. "I have kind of a different mentality about the sport, I think, leading up to the Games because that's all I was doing. I was just focusing on that. That's all I thought about. After practice, I'd go out and watch video. I think it was a little much. Now I have more of a balance. I'm back in school, I'm hanging out with my friends. It's kind of a triangle of things and diving is just one part of it. So it's nice to have different outlets."
What already has heated up the diving competition at the national championships is the battle between Ipsen and McCrory, a medalist in the 10-meter synchro with Boudia at the London Olympic Games. Ipsen placed first in the preliminary competition among 34 divers, then held off McCrory to win the finals. After the first of six rounds in the finals, Ipsen and McCrory were tied. The two will meet again in Friday's 3-meter, where Ipsen will be favored, and Saturday in platform, where McCrory will be favored.
"They got it together [Thursday night]. They probably go at it [Friday]," Schavone said.
"I'm excited about it," Ipsen said. "It's going to be fun."
Breaking Boudia's record Thursday brought a look of satisfaction to Ipsen's face, although immediately after the finals he had no idea that he had produced a record-breaking performance. Boudia, a six-time NCAA champion and Division I Diver of the Year three times, competed at Purdue, less than an hour's drive from Indianapolis.
"To be able to do that is such an honor," Ipsen said, "because David is such an accomplished diver."
The past 12 months have been a blur of successes and training blocks for Ipsen. He won his first national collegiate title as a freshman at last year's championships -- the first Stanford diver to win a national title in 82 years. Then came the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials and intense training for the Olympic Games. Then, it was back to school at Stanford and a full swimming and diving season.
No big surprise there, considering that Ipsen has been diving his entire life when he wasn't helping to make pizzas at his family's chain of California pizza restaurants.
His dad did name a pizza after Kristian: The Bettega, which is Kristian's middle name. "That's my claim to fame," he said, laughing.
Ipsen has been diving since he was 6 years old. At age 8, he became the youngest diver in history to make the finals in all three disciplines at the USA Diving Junior National Championships. He won 16 national junior titles and three world junior titles before moving up to the senior division. He won his first world championship medal, a silver, in 2009 when he was still a high-school student.
Not that this diving medalist gets special privileges at home.
When he returned home following the Olympic Games, and the last word of congratulations had been offered, it was time for Kristian the Olympic medalist to turn into Kristian the college kid who needed a gentle reminder from his mother, Yvette.
"OK, that was so much fun. Now you have to do your laundry. You have to get ready for school," Ipsen said his mom told him.
The memory of that conversation evoked a quick laugh.
"Things like that are great. I'm so fortunate to have the family I do," he said.