The comparisons to four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis started catching wind before Kristian Ipsen had blown out the candles on his 10th birthday cake. At age 9, the Walnut Creek native became the youngest diver to win a junior national title and he brought home at least one every year after that.
Now, Ipsen, 19, will finally get a chance to capture his sport’s biggest prize, an Olympic gold, when he competes in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard with partner Troy Dumais at the London Games (finals are Aug. 1).
“I don’t know if you can compare him to Greg Louganis, but he’s in the top five male divers ever to dive in this [country] — he’s very talented,” said Rick Schavone, Ipsen’s coach at Stanford. “He’s a genius of a twister.”
As a teenager, Ipsen was invited to train at USA Diving’s national training center in Indianapolis, but his parents declined the offer to ensure that he had a balanced upbringing in the Bay Area. He attended De La Salle High School in Concord and worked part-time as a busboy at his parents’ restaurant, Skipolini’s Pizza, in Clayton. Apparently, the decision didn’t impede Ipsen’s progress on the diving board; he won 16 junior national titles, eight senior national titles and three junior world championships before enrolling at Stanford last fall.
“I dove because I loved diving,” Ipsen said. “If I was only diving and I was working super hard from such a young age — if that’s all I did — I think I would have burnt out and I wouldn’t have achieved the level of success I have in the sport.”
Ipsen fulfilled expectations during his freshman season on the Farm last year, earning Pac-12 Conference Freshman of the Year honors while becoming the first Cardinal men’s diver since 1930 to win an NCAA title (3-meter springboard).
Last month, Ipsen narrowly missed an Olympic qualification in the individual 3-meter springboard event at the U.S. diving trials in Federal Way, Wash. Although he was the leader entering the finals, he fell into third place after missing a reverse 3½-somersault tuck on his second-to-last dive. Ipsen nailed his sixth dive (a reverse 1½-somersault and 3½-twist), putting four 9.0s on the board; but it wasn’t enough to leapfrog synchro teammate Dumais, a four-time Olympian who edged him by a mere 1.25 points for the team’s final spot.
“Unfortunately, I missed one dive, but I’m happy I came back with a really good last dive to end it,” he said.
Ipsen is honored that he’s going to compete for his country at the world’s biggest meet and he knows he’ll get another crack at an individual berth four years from now.
“I think it’s really going to hit me once we get to the village and start meeting people,” he said. “I’m superexcited.”