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Wednesday February 28, 2001

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Well-traveled Febvay making huge splash

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UA freshman diver Claire Febvay practices yesterday at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Febvay, who competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, placed third at the Pacific 10 Championships last weekend in Federal Way, Wash.

By Lindsey Manroel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Claire Febvay is just like any other freshman trying to adjust to a new culture, the college experience, a Division I college scholarship and quick success. Not to mention she's an Olympian.

No big deal.

Born and raised in Lyon, France, Febvay spent the first 16 years of her life under the guidance of her parents and in the company of three siblings.

When her parents took notice of her diving ability, her mother enrolled Febvay at age 7 in the Lyon Plongeon Diving Club.

However, at that time, Febvay and her parents had no anticipation that her diving was going to turn into anything more than a hobby.

"I don't think they thought I was going to go for competitions," Febvay said yesterday. "They thought I would just go and play. It was more of a hobby thing.

"When I started, I never even thought of the Olympics - it was something I would just watch on TV and be like, oh, look at them."

However, Febvay's diving began to excel, and her living situation began to take on a rough ride.

Frustrated with the limited facilities in Lyon, Febvay moved to Mission Viejo, Calif., at age 16 with the support of her parents

"My parents have always been there if I needed anything," Febvay said. "They said it was my decision and to do what I thought was best. They were really open about the whole thing."

Although Febvay was accustomed to American culture - her mother was born in Nebraska and raised in Chicago, her father is from France - the move would mark her first real taste of independence.

"At the beginning, it was kind of fun to be adventurous and on my own, but I started missing my family," Febvay said.

While diving for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, Febvay completed her high school education a semester early.

Upon graduation, Febvay learned that her parents were moving to England. She returned home a few precious months only to find out she had to pack her bags again.

She would be representing France in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.

"The Olympics were great, and it was amazing to be there with all those athletes that I used to see on TV," she said. "I didn't perform as well as I wanted to, but maybe I can learn from that and do better in 2004."

On the heels of an Olympic appearance, Febvay's diving career would force her to take one last turn. She decided to further her education at UA.

"I had really good contact with the coaches and got along with the team really well," Febvay said. "Plus, it had nice weather."

After her Wildcat career began in January, Febvay tackled her next big challenge - adjusting to college life.

"It was hard at first because I hadn't gone to school for about a year," she said. "I remember the first day I went to school and I was like, there's so much homework and stuff to do.

"The first two weeks were crazy, but I think I have adjusted well. My teammates made it much easier."

Despite her travels, Febvay seems to fit in fine at Arizona, where her talent has surprised her coaches.

"She's so together it's scary," UA head diving coach Michele Mitchell-Rocha said. "The beauty about Claire is that she is the most grounded person I know. She's very level headed and consistent - everyone loves Claire."

While her UA career has not even extended over a semester, Febvay demonstrated her ability when she took third place on the platform at the Pacific 10 Championships meet this past weekend, helping Arizona to take home its second consecutive title.

Not that Febvay is gloating.

"I'm pretty quiet most of the time," she said. "I see how important it is for us that everyone has their role to play on the team. It's not just swim or dive - it's everyone that will make the team."

UA players said that Febvay's natural talents and instincts have helped the team overcome obstacles this season.

"Some people are just natural competitors," junior Sara Quijano said. "She is still on the upswing and has all of her energy. I think she's capable of anything she sets her mind to."

With little time to enjoy the social scene, the freshman has thrown herself into her diving.

Her next challenge - qualify for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA Zone D Diving Championships, which take place March 9-10 in Seattle.

The freshman said her success has been the by-product of hard work. Work that has taken her from France to California to England and, finally, to Tucson.

"I don't think I let go or quit easily and that has helped a lot," she said. "I have seen a lot of people quitting because they were scared, but I have continued and did what I was asked to do. Apparently it has worked."