Albany High champion diver a pioneer

ALBANY – Anna Flanders stood on the edge of the diving board, knees together, looking to the side with a questioning look on her face. She turned towards the water, and with a flick of her arms, she catapulted off the board and curled her knees against her chest, did two jumps in the air and landed – flat. on the back.

It was in 2017 and his first attempt at diving. The sting in her back immediately made her hate it. She never wanted to dive again.

Four years later, the now sophomore won the state diving title in November, becoming the first Albany High School student to win the state diving championship in l ‘school.

“I love tumbling,” said Flanders. “It’s just nice to be able to fly in the air and put it down, and know it.” It’s my normal. The tumbling is just part of who I am.

Flanders’ journey to diving has seen some twists and turns, starting with entering gymnastics when she was in her second year. For years Flanders honed her gymnastic skills, drawn to that feeling of flying through the air. But the culture of the sport – a harsh, exclusive, and some say toxic – culture ultimately pushed her back, in addition to suffering multiple injuries that she had to go through.

When some of his old gymnast friends told him they had started diving, Flanders thought, why not? She knew she wanted a sport with similar physical abilities to gymnastics, but she needed a different culture.

“Now diving is like a big family,” said Flanders. “The great thing about divers is that wherever you go, whatever encounter you are in, everyone is friendly to each other. There is no toxicity.

Sometimes, however, when Flanders is at a meeting and realizes that she is the only black diver, or one of the few, she is taken aback.

Diving and swimming are sports that have historically and today excluded black athletes due to systemic racism and, more directly, institutional discrimination. Before the Tokyo Olympics, for example, the International Swimming Federation banned swim caps designed for natural hair. Last month, a black diver – Kristen Hayden of Indiana University – became the United States champion for the first time in the history of the sport.

“On the one hand, I don’t really want to represent (all people of color),” Flanders said, noting that only pressure was on his performance. “But at the same time, I know it would be good and bring about change. If this ends up getting more people of color into predominantly white sports, then I totally agree. “

And even when she hates sport, Flanders loves it. It tests her mentally, forcing her not to be shaken if she misses a dive. It forces him to have spatial awareness and patience, to practice a sense of control. But she must also make sure not to overthink her dives.

“I say, ‘Think about the board, do it on the board,’ Flanders said. “If you think too hard, you won’t have time to react and you will only have 5.5 seconds to make the actual dive. “

It’s all about balance – balancing overthinking with not thinking enough, balancing on the board and in the air, and most importantly, balancing the sport with the rest of your life.

This balance is what Flanders finds useful for his success in sport. Take breaks from diving, from which she returns energetic and motivated to perform better. Not over-training, perhaps as a reaction to years of gymnastics and sports injuries. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself at this point in your diving career, so as not to take away the joy and love of the sport.

“I’ve never had a lot of social life with gymnastics, and I know that once diving gets serious, I’ll definitely be limited in my schedule. I just want to make sure I can do it now, ”Flanders said. “I feel like as long as you have fun with it, you can get really good because nothing is holding you back.”

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