With only weeks left in their season, the Colorado College swimming and diving team practices relentlessly in hopes of perfecting their flips and strokes in time for the conference championships over Block Break.
For some, this practice means swimming laps repeatedly, upping endurance, and making sure to stick to their lifting regiment. For others, it means flipping gracefully though the air and barely leaving a splash in the pool. The latter of the two is no problem for Riley Wadehra, a former gymnast, who is not afraid to vault off the diving board and land in the water below.
This lack of fear gives her an advantage over her diving competition. “I [am] willing to throw my body off the board and see what [will] happen,” Wadehra explained casually. As she’s only a sophomore at Colorado College with quite the phenomenal season, I was curious about her techniques for getting in the zone and her plans for the important upcoming meets.
Wadehra is from Wilton, Conn., and she is an intended integrated environmental science major. She began diving at a young age as an alternative to swimming. “I swam in the summers, and I hated it,” Wadehra said. “I wasn’t good at it, I was slow, I had asthma, and it stressed me out. My mom suggested I try diving when I was 11.” And after just one season of diving, Wadehra was hooked.
This year, Wadehra has been focusing on maintaining confidence and perfecting the dives she learned last year. “I made NCAA within the first two meets, so I’ve been able to relax and really focus on my training,” Wadehra said. “By the time conference rolls around, I want all of my dives to be clean and tight so I can be confident that they are as pretty as can be.”
Wadehra attributes much of her success to the coaching staff and feels confident they can prepare her for conference, which is just weeks away. “Our head coach, Ellen, is great at reading people and can give really specific feedback,” Wadehra said. “She gets what’s going on in your head.” This type of coach–athlete relationship plays a pivotal role in individual sports like swimming and diving, where one can really get in their own head.
According to Wadehra, staying confident and patient during diving is one of its most challenging aspects. “Patience is a huge part of diving,” she said. “You do the same thing over and over again. Sometimes you get it right, but most of the time you don’t.”
The seconds leading up to leaping off the diving board require intention and routine because, according to Wadehra, being afraid and unfocused on the board can ruin the dive of even the most prepared athlete. “I take a long breath, a short breath, and then another long breath, and then I clear my mind and jump,” Wadehra explained. “You have to decide not to be afraid, which is easier said than done.”
To get into the zone for a meet, Wadehra insists on having an extremely tight ponytail. She also shared a little known but tried and true superstition: “The harder you smack your shammy—the towels divers use to dry off—against the ground, the better your dive is going to be. I get out, dry off, and then chuck my shammy on the ground. If it makes a noise, then you know your dive is going to be great.” This habit probably makes an interesting scene, but if it works then it works.
Wadehra is looking forward to showcasing her dives at the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship on Feb. 14.