Shoreline native Katrina Young, a graduate of Shorecrest High and Florida State, used a clutch performance at the Olympic trials in June to qualify for the Olympics in the women’s 10-meter platform.
Katrina Young had never felt such a weight. Not during the two-year recovery process following a broken leg in high school. Not during the never-ending days at Florida State, where she’d juggle diving and classes and weightlifting and music practice and ensemble. Not even during the Olympic trials.
But this inexplicable, invisible anvil was burdening her mind. The 24-year-old felt the hopes and expectations of everyone who had helped her athletic career bearing down on her.
“I think that was a big piece of why she hadn’t had success in the past,” her coach, John Proctor, said. “She was really carrying that baggage around with her.”
So leading up to the Olympic trials in June, Proctor sat down with Young. He had the Shoreline native and Shorecrest High School alum call her many supporters, who she affectionately refers to as her “village.”
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It was a healing experience.
“Calling my friends and family was a game-changer,” she said. “Speaking to them about how I felt made me realize that they were proud of me due to who I’m becoming as a person and the efforts that I’m putting forth, not because of a result.”
The mental burden lifted, Young went to the Olympic trials, which took place last month in Indianapolis.
And she was weightless.
In fourth place heading into the final day of the individual 10-meter diving finals, Young erased a 26.5-point deficit to surge into second and claim a spot in the Olympics.
It was the dream. It had always been the dream, one that began on the side of a pool, watching her older sister dive. Young, who was 9 at the time, was a gymnast, but diving intrigued her.
“I wanted to try it, too,” she said. “I’m a very driven person, and when I find something that I’m passionate about and that I want to pursue, I don’t really take no for an answer.”
Young quickly rose in the junior rankings. Her standout work ethic, ingrained in her since childhood, shone through as she improved. Proctor remembers watching her as a young diver.
Katrina Young file
Current residence: Tallahassee, Fla.
High School: Shorecrest
College: Florida State
Twitter handle: @KatrinaDiver
“I’ve watched her since she was a little kid,” he said. “She’s always been one of these hot junior kids that everyone kept their eye on. She works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Proctor doesn’t give that compliment lightly — he has coached more than 50 individual national-champion junior divers and some of the NCAA’s best in his 24-year coaching career.
But in Young, he sees something special.
“I’ve got to make her leave (the pool) sometimes, she’ll just keep going and going and going,” he said.
Young’s success only grew as she progressed through the sport. In 2005, she finished second at the Junior Pan American championships.
But then she suffered the worst setback of her career in 2007: a broken tibia as a result of a misdiagnosed stress fracture. When doctors told Young that the pain in her leg was just growing pains, that trademark work ethic showed itself once again.
She pushed through it.
“I’m pretty pain tolerant, and I thought I could just dive through the pain,” she said. “I broke my leg on the diving board at a district high-school meet. That was a little intense.”
The injury began a two-year recovery process in which Young was forced to, once again, sit on the sideline and watch her siblings dive. She would regularly make the 45-minute trip to the aquatics center in Federal Way with her family to watch her brother and sister practice.
In the meantime, she strengthened her mind. Young sat on the side of the pool, visualizing her dives, taking herself step-by-step through each technicality. She became a firm believer in meditation, a practice she has more recently used to visualize herself winning Olympic gold.
By the time her leg was healed, getting back into the pool was easy.
“It felt natural,” she said. “I definitely had to work hard at getting all my techniques correct again, but it felt good.”
Young earned All-America honors before graduating in 2015 from Florida State, which she chose for its “beautiful sunshine” and its music school. In her four years at FSU, she spent her days balancing an unusually tight schedule, even for a Division I athlete. Between diving, classes and music extracurriculars, she often found herself leaving her apartment early in the morning and not returning until late at night.
It was a lot. But for Young, who wants to pursue folk music after her diving career is over, it was worth it.
“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “It was just kind of trying to find a balance and the middle way. I just had to find ways to adapt to the scheduling and the intensity of work and really just dedicated myself to working hard. That’s what I believe in. I believe in a good work ethic, and I think if you care about something enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
The same rings true for the Olympics. After ridding herself of the mental pressure she had carried with her for so long, Young changed.
“I think about a month out, she just started to look different, carry herself a little different,” Proctor said. “As far as an outcome, I don’t really have an expectation. My goals for her are to have a good performance. If you do that and you get beat, you get beat.”
Young, however, is on a slightly different page than her coach.
“I want an Olympic gold medal and I believe I can do that,” she said. “When I started in athletics, I told my parents, I told anyone who would listen that I wanted to be an Olympian. I really held on to that for my whole life and I do think that you can make your dreams come true. I’m doing that. I’m living my dream and it feels incredible.
“I’m ready to go already.”