The Next Step
Jan. 2, 2009
By Larry Watts
It didn't take Sean Moore long to realize "the honeymoon was over."
Only months removed from winning the NCAA platform diving title as a freshman representing Ohio State, the Englewood, Colo. native was dealt a cold taste of reality at the U.S. Olympic Trials. As he finished a disappointing 11th in his bid to make the Olympic team, five of the divers he defeated in the NCAA finals finished ahead of him.
But that was only part of the story. Three of the top eight finishers, including U.S. champion David Boudia, were incoming college freshmen. Since Boudia is now competing at Purdue, Moore will see plenty of him this winter. Drew Livingston (third) is competing at Texas while Harrison Jones (eighth) is in his first season at USC.
But it wasn't as though Moore was caught off guard by the competition at the Olympic Trials.
"Everyone is young in this sport," he says. "And the thing about platform diving is it's such a small community and everyone knows each other. I'll probably see Boudia seven or eight times this year. It would take a special day to beat him, but he's human, like all of us.
"You become close friends with these people. I have a lot of friends in diving I call any time. Just think, you could be one of 90 players on a football team and not know as many of them as you would in our small community."
Moore certainly has the bloodlines to be an outstanding diver. His father, Tim, was a five-time NCAA springboard champion (1971-75) while at Ohio State and a two-time national AAU platform champion. He took fifth on the platform during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. His mother, Sue, was a diver on the University of Kentucky men's team (the Wildcats did not offer women's swimming at the time).
"If I was half the platform diver Sean is, I would have won the gold," his proud father says.
But Sean says his parents never pressured him into diving. "It was just something I started doing on my own at the local country club," he says. "I never really relied on my dad as a coach, but he has always been very supportive.
"The reason I didn't ask him to coach me probably goes back to that old father-son, coach-athlete relationship. If he started talking to me about diving, it would eventually end up in an argument. I guess I would take things too personally and my feelings would get hurt."
"At least he has better sense now then he had then," Tim says. "I have always appreciated the technical side of diving and would try to talk to him about that. He finally told me it was getting too personal, so I sent him away (to camps). The thing about Sean is he is very headstrong and he knows what he wants."
Moore went to camps in Arizona and Florida before heading off to Ohio State. The only trouble was he was only getting five or six weeks of training during the summer while most of the top divers in his age bracket were diving at year-round facilities.
"There really aren't any real good training facilities for platform diving in Colorado," Moore says. "They've got a pretty good one at the Air Force Academy, but security has gotten more strict there and it's nearly impossible to get in."
"Sean really had to do it the hard way," his father says. "Those year-round divers really had a big advantage over him.
"It wasn't until he got to Ohio State that he was able to close the gap. (Buckeye diving coach) Vince Panzano saw the talent in him and really pushed him. By the time we saw him in December, there was a huge improvement. He's finally on the same ground as those kids who were beating him when he was younger."
"The diving facility at Ohio State is unbelievable; it's like Graceland for diving," Moore says. "There are five platforms, five three-meter boards and five one-meter boards. There are only eight of us, so we each have a board."
In his first Big Ten Championship, Moore was sixth on the one-meter board, eighth on the three-meter and was runner-up to Ohio State teammate Wes Wieser on the platform. Wieser is taking this year off so he can compete next year when Ohio State hosts both the Big Ten and NCAA championships.
Then everything came together for Moore at the NCAA Championships, where he claimed the national title by nearly 18 points.
"I never had all phases of my dives come together so well like they did that day," says Moore, who also claimed All-America honors by placing 10th on the one-meter springboard. "I just felt real comfortable on that platform. There were eight of us in the finals and coach Panzano told me, 'Don't be a spectator."'
"He caught lightning in a bottle that night," his father says. "He had four of the best dives I had ever seen. I wish that would have happened to me just once. It was a terrifically emotional experience."
Not regarded as a morning person, Moore often finds himself getting up very early on the day of big meets.
"I end up drinking a lot of coffee," he says with a laugh. "Once I get to the meet, I don't have a set routine. Sometimes I will listen to some music, but most of the time I end up walking around talking to other divers. Like I said, this is such a close community and we all know each other.
"I don't get wrapped up in watching what other divers do. This is such an individual sport and the only thing you can control is what you do. If someone kills their dives, then good for them."
Moore started out steering his studies toward pre-med but has now incorporated more business studies into his pursuit of a degree.
"My dad is a radiologist and when I told him I was thinking of switching over to more business, he seemed quite happy," Moore says. "He's been real disappointed in the insurance end of his profession because of all the malpractice suits."
With his eyes now on the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Moore intends to stretch his studies into a fifth year.
"Even though my eligibility will be used up, I want to take advantage of the great facilities and coaching I'm getting at Ohio State," says Moore, who will have five years of year-round training under his belt by that time.