Representing the Cal name in swimming and diving can bring enough pressure to break down a team with even the strongest of mental fortitudes. There’s an expectation to win — a high bar set by the illustrious program history of seven NCAA Team Championships, nine Pac-12 rings and the production of 67 Olympians.
With each crowning achievement, another ton of pressure is placed on the backs of future blue and gold members to carry on the legacy of the giants who stood before them.
But if bearing this weight as a team is difficult, bearing it alone puts the individual on equal footing with Greek Titan Atlas.
This is a burden that was placed on freshman Cal diver Joshua Thai this past weekend at the USC Trojan Diving Invitational. As the sole Cal men’s diver, Thai competed in the 1-meter, 3-meter, and 10-meter platform diving events.
The competition kicked off with the 1-meter event, where Thai scored 283.8 points in the preliminary round, enough to send him into finals. He ended the first day by improving his score to 588.8 points in the final round, earning a solid fourth place finish.
From there, Thai’s weekend would only continue to improve, as on Saturday, his final score of 748.05 points in the 3-meter event placed him third behind USC divers Shangfei Wang and Georgii Korovin.
Thai wrapped up the meet weekend with another stellar third place finish in the 10-meter diving event with a final score of 643.65 points.
For the time being, it appears as though Thai will continue to represent the blue and gold as the lone diver while head coach Pei Lin continues to rebuild this program from scratch. Lin, however, believes that her diver has more than enough talent to put this program on the map by himself.
“As a young athlete, (Thai) has great potential to grow to be one of the best divers in the country. When I took over this program, I told my divers that you have to be self-motivated and (Thai) is a great example of that. I was never pushing him to do something, and it stood out to me that a freshman could have such a mature mindset that’s very goal-oriented,” said Lin.
Such high praise seems to have given Thai a huge boost of confidence based on his results this past weekend. He certainly didn’t seem to let who he was competing with or against get to him either.
“I always feel a little pressure while competing, no matter who it’s with or against, so I wouldn’t say that I felt any extra during this competition,” said Thai. “Ultimately, I’ve learned that you’re competing against yourself during a meet and that you shouldn’t focus too much on what other people are doing.”
With the resources available to him at Cal and with the backing of his coach, it appears as though Thai may not have to be Atlas after all. Without having to think about the pressure that comes with bearing the Cal name, Thai can continue to be a foundational piece in what hopes to be a diving program that opponents will fear one day.
And to do that, the only person that Thai needs to be is himself.