“As a perfectionist, it was really hard to start a new sport and be okay with the learning process, but I have come a long way and have appreciated learning from my mistakes and celebrating bravery along the way,” Molly Carlson explained about her new journey in the sport of high diving.
Although Carlson hasn’t competed as a high diver yet, she has been a springboard and platform diver for several years.
After two years in gymnastics, Carlson began her diving career at the tender age of nine.
“I fell in love with the artistic/powerful water sport and continued to excel in the sport competing for Canada worldwide as a Junior athlete for nine years,” the 22-year-old said.
Throughout her time as a diver, Carlson has won many awards. She has been a Junior National and Junior Pan American champion, a Youth Olympic and Junior World finalist, an Atlantic Coast Conference champion (ACC), an ACC MVP, an ACC Diver of the year, and an NCAA All-American to name a few.
In 2016, Carlson joined the Florida State University’s diving team, while also taking her bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
“The opportunities were endless, and my experiences as a Seminole were extremely positive. That team will always be a family of mine, and I would never trade my four years as a student athlete there for anything,” Carlson reminisced.
Following her time at Florida State, Carlson didn’t want to retire as a diver, so she reached out to Team Canada and is now training as a high diver.
The move to high diving has pushed Carlson to fly high, both figuratively and literally. As a high diver, she is diving off 20-meter boards.
“I was originally drawn in to the sport of high diving for the feeling of flying. I have had over six wrist surgeries and could no longer enjoy landing hands first, thus, I grew a major passion for feet first entries,” Carlson said.
“I have also been a huge Red Bull cliff diving fan for so long especially of Canadian superstar Lysanne Richard. She has won amazing titles as a team Canada high diver and I have always dreamt of training by her side,” she added.
Carlson is now part of an elite group.
There are very few high divers in the world, and only five in Canada. Richard and Michael Foizy train with Carlson at the Montreal Olympic stadium, the only stadium with an indoor 20-meter platform in the world. Aimee Harrison trains in Victoria, British Columbia, and Emily Cheffins trains in Calgary, Alberta.
“As such a small group practising an extreme sport, we are always supportive of each other. We are lucky to have five dedicated athletes for such a thrilling sport all supporting each other along the way. The bond we share is so special and unique as we conquer fear everyday side by side,” Carlson said.
Although Carlson has faced many challenges and adversities throughout her diving career, there are many new challenges she is facing in her training as a high diver.
“Not only are you diving off the highest platform in the building, but performing dives that fall at a rate of 60miles per hour. The combination of speed and height make high diving that much scarier. But trusting in yourself, in your training, and your abilities to perform a dive safely is what keeps you going. The thrill of learning a new dive 20 meters up in the air is unbeatable,” Carlson explained.
Although she is familiar with diving, Carlson had to prepare herself to start diving off the highest board.
“When I first started diving, I prepared myself to jump off the highest diving board by knowing my capabilities, and the rewarding feeling after you complete it. Now, shifting to 20 meters, I still use this mindset.”
Carlson officially started training as a high diver in July, and throughout the last three months she is proud of herself and how much she has accomplished in her training.
“I did not expect to be so far in my training in just three months at a new height. I have also grown a lot more towards being kind to myself and forgiving myself on this new journey,” Carlson said.
“As a perfectionist, it was really hard to start a new sport and be okay with the learning process, but I have come a long way and have appreciated learning from my mistakes and celebrating bravery along the way,” she added.
Throughout her diving career, Carlson’s inspiration and motivation have come from her coaches and her mom and sister.
“My mom was a successful swimmer which portrayed a passion for the water that I adopted. My new high diving coach, Stephane Lapointe, was a high diver himself and demonstrates lots of confidence and knowledge in the sport. He believes in me which gives me the courage to believe in myself everyday,” Carlson said.
As part of her training for high diving, Carlson has to prepare herself physically, mentally and technically.
“The impact from 20 meters on your body is so extensive that only 10 per cent of your actual training is diving off of 20 meters. The other time is spent on lower heights perfecting drills and preparation dives. Weight training and fitness are crucial to build a strong body that can handle a lot of impact,” Carlson explained.
“Lastly, mental visualization and positivity is 50 per cent of this sport. Being mentally capable to visualise yourself learning new dives and performing them well will aid your training drastically,” she added.
Carlson also trains on dryland, as she must perfect the flips before entering the water.
“Before every water practice, there is an hour of conditioning/flipping/flexibility to be worked on. I tend to do many flips onto mats to rehearse the ‘take-off’ component of the dives I do in the water,” Carlson said.
So far, Carlson’s favourite way to go off a diving board is a reverse, which is also known as a gainer.
“This is when you are facing forwards but flipping backwards towards the tower. It has always been my favorite and I look forward to trying multiple dives in the reverse direction off of 20 meters,” Carlson said.
In terms of her future in high diving, Carlson hopes to one day be a part of the world’s first high diving Olympic event when it gets added to the Olympics.
“I am most looking forward to travelling with my amazing teammates of team Canada around the world and performing a sport in which so few people do,” Carlson said.
“I am also looking forward to seeing the world from new heights and achieving our dreams along the way.”