Return of Olympic diving medalist followed by her partner

Krista Palmer, the only U.S. diver to win an individual medal at the Tokyo Olympics, continued a steady comeback by qualifying for February’s synchronized springboard world championships.

Palmer and her Tokyo Olympic partner Alison Gibson won the winter nationals by 14.4 points ahead of Sarah Bacon and Cassidy Cook, who finished fourth at the worlds last June.

Palmer and Gibson competed together for the first time since placing eighth in the synchro at the Tokyo Games. Palmer later won an individual bronze medal on springboard in Tokyo, becoming the first American diver to win an individual Olympic medal since 2000.

Palmer, 31, then missed most of 2022 after hip surgery and made the world team last June strictly in mixed-gender synchro, which is not on the Olympic program. She could become the second-oldest U.S. Olympic diver in history after June’s trials, according to Olympia.org.

The 24-year-old Gibson made his first full meet at the winter nationals since the Olympics. She made a “spontaneous comeback from retirement” and paired up with Palmer again.

“After the summer nationals, people were like, ‘Hey, you should come back, we’d love to see you back there,'” Gibson said, according to USA Diving. “At first I laughed like it was funny. And then I was like, I don’t know. I started thinking about it and spent time in silence alone and thought maybe this is something I should pursue.

“We got the band back. I never thought it would happen. I really thought I was done.”

The U.S. has yet to qualify for the Olympic Women’s Synchronized Springboard event. To do so, Gibson and Palmer must finish in the top four at the worlds in February in Doha, excluding the three already qualified nations (China, Great Britain, Italy) and automatically qualified Olympic host France.

The individual 3-meter springboard and 10-meter platform winners at the Winter Nationals were all Olympic or world championship veterans: Bacon (springboard) and Delaney Schnell (platform) for the women, and Tyler Downs (springboard) and Josh Hedberg (platform) for the men.

Bacon, 27, is the only American to win an individual medal at worlds this Olympic cycle, doing so on the 1-meter springboard, which is not an Olympic event. At the Winter Nationals, she edged out Tokyo Olympian Haley Hernandez with 67.4 points on the 3-meter springboard. Both made the team for worlds. Palmer was sixth.

Schnell, the top U.S. platform diver in Tokyo and at the worlds in June, won the winter nationals by more than 50 points. The other World Championship qualifier was Darrin Wright.

Downs, 20, is now on the last four Olympic or world teams in men’s springboard dating back to Tokyo. He was joined by Grayson Campbell, who finished 1.4 points behind Downs at the Winter Nationals. Campbell, 25, was competing in his first national meet since retiring from the sport after finishing sixth at the Tokyo Olympic Trials.

On the platform, 16-year-old Hedberg won his first individual senior national title. He placed fourth at the Tokyo trials at the age of 14. Runner-up Brandon Loschiavo, who was 11th at the Olympics, also qualified for the worlds.

The other synchro winners to advance to worlds were Hedberg and Carson Tyler (platform), Schnell and Jessica Parato (platform, the only U.S. medalists at worlds in June (bronze)) and Quinn Henninger and Andrew Capobianco (springboard).

Hedberg and Tyler must finish in the top four at worlds, excluding already qualified nations, to earn the U.S. an Olympic berth in the men’s synchronous platform. The quotas in the other synchronous events have already been secured.

The U.S. also hopes to qualify the remaining individual spots for the Olympics – two on the men’s platform and one on the women’s platform. At least 12 Olympic quotas are available in each individual event at worlds, which is the last chance for nations to earn spots.

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