One dive shy of a medal, Krug still feels the thrill

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LONDON -- For the entire hour of the Olympic 3-meter springboard diving final, as videographers panned for shots of family members to intersperse throughout the TV broadcast, there was a highly conspicuous absence in the crowd.

As Pittsburgh's Cassidy Krug chased her dream Sunday, the man most responsible for nurturing it these last two decades could be found not in front of the cameras but behind them.

Julian Krug sat in a green NBC-TV truck located outside of the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park, wearing a headset and holding a clipboard where he could jot down notes just as he had during the diving events at five previous Summer Olympics. Only this time, there was a big difference.

This time, Mr. Krug, the coach of the Pitt diving program for the last 33 years, had to perform his duties with a pounding heart. He and his wife, Doe, had trained Cassidy, 27, in Oakland's Trees Pool from the time she was a toddler, teaching her the intricacies of a beautiful sport without the added pressure one might assume. She took what they gave her and emerged as an artist more concerned with performance than competition.

Still, there she was, competing, and doing a fine job of it. After the fourth rotation of five, Krug was in fourth place, just .05 points behind third-place Laura Sanchez Soto of Mexico. Two Chinese divers were in control of the top two spots, so for Krug, a Montour High graduate, it had come down to a battle for bronze.

After Sanchez Soto nailed her fifth dive, earning a score of 75.00, Cassidy would need a 75.06 to make the podium.

"Cassidy is going to need straight 8.5s," Mr. Krug told the crew.

Inside, he said he was thinking, "She can do that dive. She can put that thing away. She can do it."

Mr. Krug's eyes found his daughter in the middle of 70 small TVs. What was she thinking before the biggest dive of her life?

"I wanted to hit that dive so badly," Cassidy Krug said. "I wanted to go out with nines, and I was visualizing it, going over it in my head."

Krug ran forward on the board and sprung herself off the end of it. The takeoff was right, but she left her dive too short and did not make a vertical entry into the pool.

She was given a 55.50, which put her in seventh place for the competition with a total of 342.85. China's Wu Minxia (414.00), China's He Zi (379.20) and Ms. Sanchez Soto (362.20) took home medals.

In the truck, Mr. Krug knew his daughter was not going to win a medal, and she knew it, too, as soon as she hit water.

"Sorry, buddy," NBC producer David Gibson told Mr. Krug.

"Sorry, Julian," NBC assistant director Betsy Aronin added.

"That's OK," Mr. Krug said. "(Expletive) happens."

Ever since their daughter won the U.S. trials back in June, Mr. and Mrs. Krug, natives of Kennedy, have been anticipating these three days. There was some concern about them performing their duties at NBC while Cassidy was competing -- Mrs. Krug is working her eighth Olympics doing research and keeping the announcers informed in the booth -- but Mr. Krug decided he'd rather be working than sitting in the stands.

"That'd be a pain in the butt," Mr. Krug said. "If I was sitting in the stands, I'd [probably] be doing the same thing, analyzing the contest, but just not telling anybody. I keep these guys straight in here just like Doe keeps them straight up top."

So, here it was, finally. Could Mr. Krug handle it? Right off the bat, there was Cassidy pictured on screen 35, wiping water off her face as she prepared for her first dive. After she started strong with a 72.00, a picture of her brother, Kyle, with a Terrible Towel sitting on his shoulder, appeared on a nearby screen.

It became clear very quickly that NBC had a rooting interest. When Canada's Emilie Heymans struggled with her second dive, someone said, "Sorry Emilie, your stay will not be very long!"

After Krug executed her second dive for a score of 72.85, Mr. Krug pumped his fist from his high desk chair. After she followed that up with a 70.50 on her third dive, the camera panned to Mrs. Krug in the booth, where she stood up and smiled.

NBC sideline reporter Alex Flanagan soon delivered a report from Cassidy's coach, Rick Schavone, who said she was still a bit tentative. When Mrs. Krug heard that was what Mr. Schavone said, she flatly disagreed. Her daughter didn't look tentative at all.

Krug's fourth dive was a 72.00, which appeared to keep her in third entering the final rotation. But Sanchez Soto came from behind to barely overtake her, and Krug trailed, 287.40-287.35.

"Cassidy has to beat her by half a point," Mr. Krug said.

It would be one dive for an Olympic medal, and for the Krug family, it doesn't get any better than that.

Amazingly, Cassidy did not know the score. She had gone out of her way to avoid looking for it, focusing only on her dives, which she knew were good enough to put her in contention. She understood the stakes but not the exact details.

As it turned out, she didn't need to know the score to feel extra pressure on the final dive.

"I think I probably was getting ahead of myself maybe a tiny bit," she said. "I controlled it a little too much. It didn't end the way I would have liked."

About a half-hour after it was over, Mr. Krug packed up and left the truck.

"Hey, it's a whole lot better to be in the hunt than to do it and not be in the hunt," Mr. Krug said.

He bumped into Ms. Flanagan on his way out.

"She's one of the top 12 divers in the world," Ms. Flanagan said. "Only two U.S. divers made it into this event."

"She's good, she's my daughter," Mr. Krug said.

"What she needs to know is that you love her," Ms. Flanagan advised.

"She'll hear that tonight for sure," Mr. Krug said.

Cassidy already had her father's love. She'll take away more than that from Sunday.

"Overall, it's been about the journey the whole time," she said. "The moments up there on the board, the crowd's cheering, being on TV, getting ready to do my dives, are ones that I may never have again. I appreciate that. I'm crushed by the last one, but big picture, I'm happy."


J. Brady McCollough: and on Twitter @BradyMcCollough. First Published August 6, 2012 4:00 AM


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