2018 M. NCAAs: Steele Johnson Goes for Broke and Nails His Final 3m Dive


2016 Olympic silver medalist and Purdue junior  Steele Johnson stepped onto the 3-meter board for his 6th and final dive Friday night in third place — only nine points behind the leader at that point. He signaled to judges that he would be switching from a forward 3 1/2 somersault pike to a forward 4 1/2 tuck, upping his difficulty from 3.1 to 3.8 (the highest degree of difficulty possible).

That change would prove to be pivotal, as he would score 96.9 to win the event 499.35-495.15 over Tennessee’s Zhipeng Zheng, who scored 83.70 on his final round due in part to a low difficulty (3.1). Indiana’s Michael Hixon, who notably transferred from Texas, was third with a 481.90.

Check out Johnson’s full scoring breakdown below:

Round # Dive # Board Height Description Net Score Degree of Difficulty Score Round Place
1 205B 3M Back 2 1/2 Somersault Pike 25.5 3 76.5 3
2 5154B 3M Forward 2 1/2 Somersault 2 Twist Pike 25 3.4 85 1
3 307C 3M Reverse 3 1/2 Somersault Tuck 21 3.5 73.5 3
4 407C 3M Inward 3 1/2 Somersault Tuck 23 3.4 78.2 5
5 5337D 3M Reverse 1 1/2 Somersault 3 1/2 Twist Free 25.5 3.5 89.25 1
6 109C 3M Forward 4 1/2 Somersault Tuck 25.5 3.8 96.9 1

In NCAA diving, a change of dives is permissible as long as the diver is explicit in what the change will be before he or she executes it.

Per Rule 6, Section 3, Article 2, parts e through g of the NCAA rulebook:

e. Each diver must execute the dive number as written or have that dive declared failed. If the announced dive is not performed and the dive performed is properly listed on the diver’s sheet, it will be considered an announcer’s error and judged as performed. If the diver executes a dive as announced and it is determined that the announcer was in error, then the diver will be permitted to immediately perform the correct dive. However, the diver may elect to keep the scores for the incorrectly announced dive, with the referee making an immediate correction on the diving sheet.

f. If a diver exceeds the total degree of difficulty allowed when listing his or her voluntary dives (i.e., 9.0 in the one-meter event, 9.5 in the three-meter event or 7.6 in the platform event), the error shall be corrected. If the error goes undetected, then the final voluntary dive (that causes the list to exceed the voluntary DD total) shall be failed.

g. A diver may change the number, letter and/or platform level of a dive at any time before the execution of the dive without penalty

Watch the full progression, including Johnson’s nearly-unprecedented reaction (in diving), below:

Johnson was the runner-up on the 1-meter board last night, and with this win, comes within one title of all-time NCAA leader — and his 2016 synchronized diving partner — David Boudia. He will try for gold on the 10-meter platform tomorrow.

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3 years ago

So awesome. He is full of diving and a steely eyed dinner dude

Nick Gayes
3 years ago

He changed from a front 3.5 pike to 4.5 tuck.

3 years ago

Nerves of steel. ‘love it!

3 years ago

That last dive was clutch. Smart coaching by Purdue coach and execution from Jacob. Well done.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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