Making a Splash (or not)
He’s only thirteen, but James Hopper is aiming high. Make that really high.
The Eastern Middle School student recently took a bronze medal at the 2013 UANA Junior Pan American Diving Championships, one of just twelve male American divers representing the USA in the international competition. He earned his coveted spot in the biannual games after taking the gold in the 3 meter board at the USA Diving Junior Nationals in August.
Known for his fast turns and exceptional flexibility, James has already been dubbed a future Olympic hopeful by USA Diving. He says that he first got interested in competitive diving “just playing around on the boards” at Greenwich Country Club. After a swim coach there suggested he try serious diving, he quickly fell for the sport, eventually giving up hockey to devote more time to his training with the Greenwich Marlins Diving Club at the Greenwich YMCA.
“He loves to jump. That’s just his thing. When he’s not diving at the pool, he’s usually out in the yard on the trampoline doing flips,” says his mom, Mandy Hopper.
James credits his mom, a former college gymnast, for endowing him with a flexibility gene that gives him a competitive edge. “I seem to have double-jointed shoulders, so I’m usually good at twists,” he explains.
He’s also good at keeping his priorities straight. Coach Dylan Korn describes James as “incredibly hard working,” but the eighth-grader says he will sometimes leave his almost daily two-hour practices early to study. “School still comes first,” says James.
Yet now that he’s got a bronze medal hanging from a peg in his bedroom, James does concede some loftier goals. They include attempting the towering 10 meter platform, adding more complexity to his current dive repertoire and someday, maybe going for Olympic gold. “If I were to try for the Olympics it would be like 2020 or 2024,” he says. “Right now, though, I just want to dive at a really good college.”