Former Gymnast Competes in USA Diving Winter Nationals

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COLUMBIA - The USA Diving Winter National Championships are in in Iowa City. Missouri has placed second as a team the last two national championship meets. See how one Missouri diver has gone from late bloomer to one of the best in the country.

Missouri senior diver Dante Jones is built for athletic competition.

"I saw a kid who could have been captain of the basketball team, I see a kid who would have been an unbelievable football player, wrestler. No matter what that kid was gonna do, he was gonna be unbelievable at it," said Missouri Diving Coach Jamie Sweeney.

Jones decided to dive into his sport later than most. He didn't even start diving until he was sixteen-years-old, as a sophomore at Hickman High School. Before that, he was training to be a gymnast, but he did start on these platforms at the Mizzou Aquatic Center thanks to the Missouri Diving Club and the help of Coach Sweeney.

"I saw the 2004 Olympics and I was like I think I can do it, it worked out I got pretty good at it and I've just continued ever since," Jones said.

"We had to kind of teach him backwords. He learned all of his hard dives first, and then I had to go for the next couple of years and teach him the fundamentals of the sport, to make those difficult dives more easy," said Sweeney.

"You definitely feel behind. There are a lot of the basics that you work on when you are little like positioning, execution through the water, all that you pick up as a child," said Jones.

To catch up, Jones watches youtube videos of the best divers in the world to study their technique.

"Even my diving team they're like 'Oh you are weird, you watch Youtube videos day and night, but I mean I really do try to study and try to learn everything that I can," Jones said.

The studying has paid off. In August, Jones dove to a fourth-place finish at the Summer National Championships. Now he is competing in the Winter Senior Nationals in Iowa City, with a chance to qualify for various international meets, the 2012 Olympic trials, and become a National Champion.

"We have a couple of Olympians there, and they are really, really good. I mean I'm gonna strive to get first. But my expectations are reasonable I feel," said Jones.

Reasonable expectations for someone who's defied conventional reason to make it to the top.