TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Like thousands of athletes around the world, Katrina Young has long dreamed of standing on an Olympic podium, hearing her country’s national anthem as a gold medal is placed around her neck.
For most of those athletes, it’s only a dream. But Young is one of the few who have the chance to turn that dream into reality.
A Florida State diver from 2010-15, Young recently clinched a spot on the United States Olympic Diving Team. She’ll depart for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, later this month and compete on the biggest stage in international sports in August.
“I’m so stoked,” said Young, the fourth diver in FSU history to qualify for the Olympics.
“I’m just looking to turn around and get prepared for it. I want to get a medal there. I want to get a gold medal there.”
A native of Shoreline, Wash., near Seattle, Young enters the Olympics with a surge of confidence thanks to a dramatic triumph at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last month.
Only the top two qualifiers make the U.S. team, and Young entered the last day of trials in fourth place and more than 25 points out of a roster spot.
But thanks to five strong dives – highlighted by a near-perfect back 2 ½ somersault with ½ twist pike for a finale – she vaulted past her competition and booked her ticket to Rio.
“I feel like I really thrived under that pressure,” Young said. “So, honestly, I think it’s going to help me. Because the Olympics is a very high-pressure meet, of course.”
For Young, competing in the Olympics is something of a family affair.
Her grandmother, Elaine Silburn, competed for Canada in the long jump and high jump in the 1948 London Olympics and has served as a role model for Young ever since.
Young has had designs on joining her grandmother in the Olympic sorority for several years.
“I’ve always aspired to be like her,” Young said. “She’s very strong and sure of herself and just to follow in her footsteps and continue that in the family … It’s incredible. I don’t know what will happen down the line but it’s just fun to be able to do this now and make her proud, really.”
The Olympics will mark Young’s first visit to South America, and as Young’s event – the 10-meter platform – won’t compete until later in the month, she’ll have plenty of time to explore Rio and the surrounding area.
She’ll also participate in the Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 5.
“I’m definitely going to get out and try to see the place,” Young said. “We live in a village there and we’re around world-class athletes who are living around us. So I’m excited to have conversations with them and draw from their experience.”
Although she graduated from Florida State more than a year ago, Young is still a mainstay around FSU’s Morcom Aquatics Center, where she trains regularly with FSU diving coach John Proctor.
She credits her time at FSU with helping her improve as a diver as well as a person. Young graduated with a degree in commercial music and, if she’s not diving, is often singing.
“I love living here,” Young said. “Even if I wasn’t diving, I would love living in Tallahassee and being part of the Florida State University community. The facilities are incredible, the teachers and professors are so great.”
With her place in Rio secured, Young isn’t about to change the routine that paid off so well. She plans to spend the next few weeks preparing as she would for any other meet.
Then, on July 19, it’s off to Atlanta and then Houston, where she’ll join Team USA for training and team-building before finally departing for Rio.
And maybe trading in that dream of a gold medal for the real thing.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about over and over and over,” Young said. “It’s a feeling of total ecstasy, total belief in myself, being so proud and proud to represent all the people who have supported me.
“It’s a great feeling. I want to achieve that. I want to have that feeling for real.”