On Monday, Olympians Troy Dumais, 31, and his older brother, Justin, 33, finished fourth and fifth on the three-meter springboard event at the USA Diving Winter National Championships in Nashville, qualifying for the Olympic trials at ages when most divers are done. (Younger brother Dwight Dumais, 25, is a Stanford senior majoring in human biology. Though not as accomplished in the sport as his brothers, he is still a five-time national qualifier and bronze medalist at nationals on the one-meter board in 2005.) In Nashville, Troy teamed with Kristian Ipsen, a Stanford freshman, to win the three-meter synchro title. Ipsen recalls asking Troy for his autograph when he was eight years old.
Ipsen and Dumais clinched the meet by scoring nine or higher on five of six dives. They received perfect marks of 10 for a back dive pike, a forward 3½ somersault and a forward 2½ somersault with a twist. Their partnership is all the more remarkable because Ipsen has been training at his university in Palo Alto Calif., and can only train a few days each month with Dumais, who trains at the University of Texas and works as a Life Advisor for other Longhorns sports teams. His resume for the role comes from a sport that requires ups, downs, twist and turns is vast.
Troy Dumais almost made the Olympic team as a 16-year-old in 1996. In '98, he won a silver medal at the world championships on the one-meter springboard, an event not contested at the Olympics. Two years later, Dumais had an unusually high degree of difficulty at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Federal Way, Wash., and that was for just getting to the pool.
At 2 o'clock one morning, 17 hours before the finals of the men's three-meter event, he was admitted to St. Francis Hospital, trying to pass the large kidney stone that was breaking up in his body. "I felt like my whole side was exploding," he said. To complicate matters, Dumais, one point off the lead after the semifinals, had told doctors not to administer the usual narcotic given to patients in his condition because it was on the IOC's banned list. Instead they hooked him up to an IV bag, injected him with non-steroidal Toradol and sent him on his way at 5 a.m. after he passed a large stone into his bladder. Twelve painful hours later he was back again, taking in a liter of IV fluid and trying to force himself to excrete the stone completely so he could dive without incident or pain. Instead he passed either a second stone, or a fragment of the original, into his bladder and arrived at the Weyerhaeuser Aquatic Center 45 minutes before competition began. In the stands his parents Kathleen and Marc and 28 other supporters wearing light blue shirts saying Dumais Diving had no clue about Troy's illness. "I didn't want my mom to freak," Dumais said, "so only my brother Justin knew."
Justin Dumais, who was then 21 and would finish 13th in the springboard final, was one of four Dumais siblings who followed Troy into diving after his parents chose it as an outlet for Troy's hyperactivity. "Teachers would ask a question," Kathleen recalled, "and Troy would blurt out the answer without being called." One teacher suspected he had Attention-Deficit Disorder and suggested his parents keep him on Ritalin. Instead they kept him on diving boards.
Should he qualify for the squad at the Olympic Trials in Federal Way in June, Troy would be the first U.S. diver to compete in four Olympics. Still, he admits that there is a void without an Olympic medal to show for his toils. He placed fourth in synchro three-meter with David Pichler at the Sydney Games in 2000, missing out on bronze by less than two points. Even after a sixth-place finish in Beijing two summers ago, he sounded like a man who wasn't done with his dives. "What should I do, sit behind a desk and ask myself if I left it out there?" he said. "If I leave the sport, the sport I love, the sport I've been doing my whole life, I have to be ready to walk away saying I did everything I could, and I know I haven't done that yet."
So at 28, Troy started hitting the weights on the advice of his longtime coach Matt Scoggin. Even though his technique was on par with many of the top Chinese divers, Scoggin felt that a stronger Dumais with a touch more lean muscle could jump a tad higher and have that much more time and space to square himself for cleaner entries that leave a more dramatic impression for the judges. He added between 10 and 15 pounds of muscle thanks to a four-day-a-week program in the gym. He won silver medals in the three-meter springboard and synchronized three meter, diving with Ipsen, at the world championships in Rome in 2009, keeping the elusive Olympic medal within reach.
Justin, 33, is the eldest. He competed with Troy at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, finishing sixth in the synchro springboard event with Troy and won a bronze in synchro with Troy at the worlds in 2005. It was about that time, when doctors diagnosed him with Graves Disease, a thyroid ailment he beat in part by switching medications and keeping diet soda out of his fridge.
Justin took over six years away from diving for another high-flying vocation, flying F-16 jets for the South Carolina Air National Guard, before his tour of duty in Iraq. He returned to the sport just nine months before the 2011 national championships, and still competed with the most difficult list of dives.
Though they have been each other's rocks throughout the sport, the Dumais boys actually had to be separated in college. Though he is the older diver, Justin had always fought to keep up with Troy. The boys began their collegiate careers at different universities -- Justin at USC and Troy at Texas -- but Justin soon transferred to join the Longhorns. Kenny Armstrong, their coach at Texas, decreed that Troy would compete in springboard events, while Justin jumped from the platform. That kept the two of them from competing against one another instead of for themselves.
Today, the supportive teammates stand ready to take another plunge for a sport they are not ready to leave.