Mickey Strauss’ journey from gymnast to Olympic diver
Mickey Strauss is no ordinary diver. Strauss’ diving journey didn’t begin in the pool, but rather in a gym.
Stauss is a junior from Provo majoring in psychology. At the age of two, Strauss’ parents enrolled him in gymnastics, where Strauss continued to spin on the floor for 14 years. After more than a decade on the mats, Strauss felt physically and mentally exhausted with gymnastics.
“My body was just finished,” Strauss said.
As he left gymnastics, Strauss decided he didn’t want to ignore his flexibility and ability to do flips. Strauss’ mother, a former high school diver, helped Strauss transition into diving during her sophomore year of high school, a sport where flexibility and flipping ability are key.
As Strauss began diving, he also joined his father, Mike, on the trail, Mike having competed on the University of Utah cross country and trail teams from 1998 to 2001. When he started high school at Mountain View in Orem, Mickey decided to join the cross-country team to make new friends. At the time, Mike Strauss was coaching the cross country and track and field teams.
“Of course I loved being able to work with him on a daily basis,” Mike said. “I got to see him work and struggle in a sport that wasn’t his ‘strength’ where he wasn’t the ‘best’ like he was in gymnastics and diving.”
Diving for BYU
Strauss first committed to the University of Utah, but something was wrong. Strauss was keen to train with former coach Tyce Rouston at BYU, so he focused on Provo. Strauss applied to BYU and was turned down, but determined to dive at BYU, he went to Utah Valley University for a year before transferring to BYU.
Tyce Rouston is in his seventh season as BYU’s head diving coach. Rouston began coaching Strauss when the diver was in high school and “right away he showed talent,” Rouston said. Early in Strauss’ training, they pushed Strauss to see how far he could go and what tricks he could do. Once they figured out what Strauss was capable of, they went back to the basics of diving to make sure Strauss had a solid foundation.
Rouston appreciated Strauss’ background as a gymnast.
“Getting your hands on a gymnast is always fun because they know certain tricks,” Rouston said.
Strauss excels in diving. When he steps onto the set, everything around him disappears.
“When you’re on the board, you’re on your own. It’s you and the board,” Strauss said.
As a student-athlete, Strauss must be able to balance his school and athletic responsibilities. He uses a planner to keep track of his homework and to help him stay focused. He explained that his social life outside of his team disappears when diving is in season.
“I’m so focused on school and diving,” Strauss said. “That’s what I’m here to do, so might as well try to do my best.”
The Olympic events
When Strauss started diving, he wanted to qualify for the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship. While, like many young athletes, Strauss wanted to compete in the Olympic trials, it seemed far from possible. However, last year Mickey participated in both the diving championship and the Olympic trials.
Although Strauss didn’t rank high enough to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics, that doesn’t stop him from working to return again for the 2024 Olympic Trials.
“It was such a surreal experience,” Strauss said. When he was young, he remembers watching the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and wanting to compete, but at the time he thought he was competing in gymnastics rather than diving.
“Mickey always talked about wanting to be an Olympian,” said Malia Strauss, Mickey’s mother. “To see his dreams start to come true was amazing.”
To make the Olympic diving team, an athlete must be the best of the best. As Strauss prepares for the 2024 Olympic trials, he must remember how far he has come in such a short time.
Rouston explained that Strauss continues to train at Olympic caliber.
“He’s a leader in the fact that he has high goals for himself,” Rouston said.
Life off the chart
When Strauss isn’t diving or doing his homework, he enjoys learning about cars, racing down the canyon with friends and making music.
When Strauss arrived at college, he missed playing the cello so much that he “went and bought another one”.
Because her home is just minutes from campus, Strauss spends as much time as possible with her family.
The Strauss family takes the 4th of July very seriously. Every year, Strauss dons an 8-foot Uncle Sam costume and competes in the Freedom Run 5k in Provo.
Lead the team to success
Rouston describes Strauss as “part beagle, part pit bull” because he is loyal yet competitive and not afraid to go after the attack.
Strauss “doesn’t spend his time dwelling on past mistakes,” said Malia Strauss. “He has an optimistic view of success.”
Strauss credits his success to his role models, particularly his parents, younger brother, and Rouston. Strauss admires that his father had a constant need “to improve his knowledge”. His younger brother was a good example of “constant hard work”. Both his father and brother showed Strauss that, even in the face of difficult trials, he can “work hard and get better every day”.
When it comes to Rouston, Strauss finds that he always knows how to help his divers achieve their goals.
“(Rouston) really listens to you. He knows how to take you to the next level and the necessary steps to take,” Strauss said.
Strauss loved his experience as a BYU diver. Every day he works hard and gets involved in what the team does. For Strauss, his passion for diving comes from “being relaxed and having fun”.