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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 31, 2008
Diver fights through pain to claim silver medal
By Jordan J. Michael
BINGHAMTON Throughout the history of sports, athletes have been known to disregard physical pain for a chance at glory. The thrill of victory is too huge to miss.
Kirstie Russell, 16, of Feura Bush, wouldn’t let an aching back ruin her chance at an Empire State Games medal in diving. “I’ve worked too hard to let my sore back slow me down,” said Russell. “Yeah, it hurts pretty bad sometimes, but you’ve got to ignore it.”
After her last dive during the 1M finals on Saturday, she made her way up to where her parents were sitting. “I ran up to the bleachers and sat right down. My neck and back hurt so bad that I couldn’t help but to shed some tears,” said Russell. “I didn’t want to cry in front of everybody, but whatever.”
Russell quickly grabbed a big bag of ice and headed back down to the pool. She would need to recover for her synchronized diving finals later in the day. “Ice may be the best invention of all time,” Said Russell. “It works wonders.”
Even with the sporadic and sometimes random back distress, Russell ended up winning a silver medal in the 3M Scholastic Women’s diving final on Friday. The competition included 10 dives that would all count towards an ending score.
Russell posted a 334.00 to take the silver. On top of that, she placed fourth in the 1M final on Saturday, with a score of 325.95. “I did quite well. I’ll say that I’m happy,” said Russell. “I mean, I would have loved to get gold, but who wouldn’t say that?”
Her synchronized diving finals were held at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday night. “I don’t know why it was that late. However, it did give me plenty of time to relax and recover,” said Russell.
Russell’s synchronized diving partner was Andrea Krok of Clifton Park. The object of the event is to perform the same dive at the exact same time. It is not a serious event. Russell doesn’t even know what place they came in.
“Synchronized diving is more for fun and games,” she said. “We did well. I bet we scored really high, even though the score doesn’t matter much.”
Russell said she hurt her back last summer when she attempted a double front flip on a friends trampoline. “My friend Meredith and I were throwing double fronts,” she said. “We wanted to see who could land the best double front flip.”
Her friend ended up going inside for a few minutes. Russell decided to attempt another trick in the meantime. “I did another double front, but this time I got all squirrely in the air,” she said. “I hit my head on the side of the trampoline and I heard my neck and back crack real loud.”
Her doctor couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong with her neck and back. “The doctor said it was a strange injury. He said I wasn’t in any real danger. I didn’t question the doctor because I needed to get ready for the diving season,” said Russell.
Her altered back and neck makes normal life a bit more difficult at times. “Let’s say I go to the mall to see a movie and I have to sit near the front,” said Russell. “You have to tilt your neck back to see the screen. I can’t even sit through a whole movie.”
The Bethlehem High School senior made it to the games for the second year in a row. She will be the varsity captain on the diving team in the fall. “I’ve been diving since seventh grade. My mom actually forced me to take lessons in diving,” said Russell.
Her mother, Mary Russell, decided to sign Kirstie up for summer diving lessons at the Elm Avenue Town Park without telling her. “Kirstie was looking for something to do over the summer,’ she said. “She used to do gymnastics, so I thought she would be a good diver. I decided to surprise her with diving lessons.”
Russell wasn’t too happy at first. “Diving? I thought it was a little strange. I ended up loving it. Moms are always right,” she said.
Dan Russell, Kirstie’s father, wanted to get her out of the house and involved in something. “She loved the water. Diving lessons was the perfect idea,” he said. “We brought her to the park. I feel like it was her destiny.”
Russell dives on a club team as well as for her high school varsity team. Her club team practices four or five times a week at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. The varsity diving season is in the fall. She trains all year long.
Russell’s varsity team competes against other Section II teams in the area. The squad also takes a trip to Colgate University for a special dual meet. Sectionals are held in November for two or three days.
Russell and her high school teammates have had real success in the past couple years. “We have won Sectionals two years in a row and were looking forward to three,” said Russell. “I dove in States the past two years and got third place last year.”
She plans on diving and studying journalism in college. Her ideal locations are California and Boston. “I love reading and writing, I always have. I want to be able to talk to numerous people, while incorporating my own words,” said Russell.
As she contemplates her future, she is a little worried about her injury. “I want to dive in college. I can’t risk that,” said Russell. “I don’t want the pain to get unbearable and have the doctors tell me that I can’t dive anymore.”