Liberty Diving Under Construction After Scary Collapse

It has been an unprecedented year for college athletes, from season cancellations to COVID-19 restrictions. For the women of Liberty’s swim and dive team, the partial collapse of the diving tower in the Liberty Natatorium added yet
another obstacle.

The one-meter platform of the tower unexpectedly collapsed June 24. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident, but concerns over the safety of the four-year-old structure arose. After further examination of the other four platforms on the tower, the decision was made to demolish and rebuild the entire structure.

“After extensive investigation including some destructive testing where we actually removed concrete to see the structural support inside the concrete, it has been determined that the tower was not constructed per the design engineer’s specifications,” Vice President of Major Construction Dan Deter said on Liberty’s athletics website.

Construction on the new tower will begin after the upcoming season ends in March, and should be completed prior to the start of the 2021-2022 season. But the construction delay means the diving team will be without their diving tower for an entire season.

First year Liberty diving Coach Andrew Hemlich has already found ways to work around this obstacle, however.

Unable to condition and train over the summer due to COVID-19 restrictions, most of his athletes have been out of the water for a prolonged amount of time. His solution is what he calls “dry land” training.

This type of training involves doing work outside of the pool such as jumping off of a diving board onto a soft mat or doing flips on a trampoline, an important part of reacclimating the athletes to the sport after the unexpected break.

The Liberty University Women’s Swimming & Diving TYR Senior Day Meet takes place at the Liberty Natatorium on January 25, 2020. Pictured: Kendal Irwin (Photo by Ellie Richardson)

“They are still able to work on their flipping and actual dives without getting in the water, as well as flips on the ground and conditioning. At this point in the season, that’s probably one of the important aspects of diving right now anyway,” Helmich said.

Once they are ready to start diving again, the divers can access the one-meter and three-meter diving boards located next to the tower. His athletes will be able to practice and even compete in those events in their own pool. Regarding platform events, Helmich is considering practicing at another pool or getting in extra practice while competing with facilities that have a tower.

“Even though we don’t have a full set of platforms right now, we’re still going through our normal season this year. We’re still able to practice all of the important aspects of a start, just on the ground,” Helmich said. 

The start, he says, is one of the most important parts of platform diving, and they will be able to replicate it by doing groundwork. The team will not be able to practice like they have in the past, but from his experience observing Liberty’s swim and dive team over the past years, he believes that the team possesses the talent to compete well not only on the conference level, but at the NCAA championships. 

“We’re set to have one the best seasons for the swim and dive program in program history,” Helmich said.

Mario Cosentino is a Sports Reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @runner_of_steel.

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