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Twister: Diver Kristian Ipsen

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

CAPTURED IN BRONZE: Ipsen, left, is a rising sophomore.

By Sam Scott

Kristian Ipsen, ’15, wasted no time this year establishing himself as one of the most talented divers in Stanford history: As a freshman, he won the school’s first NCAA men’s diving championship in 82 years. Stanford head diving coach, Rich Schavone, says Ipsen’s Greg Louganis-like potential was apparent at an early age: “He really is a twisting genius,” Schavone, PhD ’79, told “He could do twisting at the age of 8 better than people at age 18.” Ipsen competes in the 3-meter synchro with veteran diver Troy Dumais on Wednesday, August 1.

*UPDATE, AUGUST 1: Ipsen and Dumais took bronze in the 3-M synchronized dive.


Before we talk diving: Your family owns Skipolini's Pizza in the East Bay, famous for its labor-inducing “prego” pizza. How often did you work there growing up? Can you explain the prego’s magic powers?

My family does own Skipolini’s Pizza. I love Stanford but the one thing I miss about home is being able order free pizza whenever I want it. For that reason alone I am trying to convince my Dad to open a Skips in Palo Alto. Growing up, I worked at Skips when I could. I was always busy traveling for diving meets so I would work when I was really needed. Our whole family plays a big part in the opening of new restaurants because it is a pretty stressful process, so I would always work for a few months at each new restaurant after they opened. I would just do simple things like take food to people or do the dishes. The prego pizza does have magic powers. My family produced a pizza for overdue mothers. For 30 years, expectant mothers who are past their due date have come in to Skipolini’s and ordered the prego pizza in hopes of inducing their labor. 

Why did you start diving? What makes you so good at it?

I loved to flip on the trampoline as a kid, so my parents signed me up for gymnastics. In gymnastics, I kept getting moved up into higher age groups with older children. I was an incredibly shy young kid and this made me uncomfortable, so I then tried swimming. I loved the water but I stopped this, too, because I got bored going back and forth. My parents then thought of a combination of the two sports and found diving. I feel that the level of success I have had in diving has come from a God-given gift. Thankfully, I had amazing coaches growing up who really taught me the fundamentals of the sport. I am also a perfectionist, so I worked incredibly hard to make every aspect of my diving as close to perfect as possible. I feel like my drive, my God-given gift and my coaches really helped me to achieve the success I have.   

Obviously diving isn't for wimps. Growing up, how did you deal with the occasional pain that must be a big part of the learning process?

Yes, I have hit the board about 15 times (thankfully never on the head) and I have smacked the water really hard more times that I can even count. Thankfully I have not had any serious injuries but all the pain that comes from diving is completely worth it when you nail your dives in a meet.

You are partnered with Troy Dumais, one of the most experienced American divers—but you also sometimes compete against him. What makes a partnership work?

Although there is a pretty significant age difference between Troy [32] and me, it does not matter to us when we are in the water. A good synchronized partnership happens when the two athletes are focused during practice and have similar goals. Troy and I were lucky because our synchro came pretty natural. We have been successful because we both are good at manipulating little parts of our diving in order to be as synchronized as possible.  

What are your routines on the day of a meet?

I always need to wake up early on the day of a meet to make sure that my body is up and moving. I can’t start my day without a cup of coffee. Once I get to the pool, I will already have a set of songs [on my iPod] for the competition and they will usually be upbeat fun songs that will keep me in a good mood throughout the day.

Finally, what's your go-to dive?

[It] is called a reverse one-and-a-half with three-and-a-half twists. I save it for last in my individual list of dives because I know that I can do it well in high-pressure situations. I will not be competing this dive with Troy at the Olympics, though. For synchronized diving, our go-to dive is our last dive, which is called a double out. It is a front two-and-a-half with two twists. We are both good twisters so we like saving this one for last.

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