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Diving: Collier's transition coming full circle

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior diver John Collier splashed onto the Arizona scene after transferring from the University of Kentucky. Collier found a new sport in diving at the UA after suffering an injury that ended his collegiate career as a gymnast.
By Allison Hamila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
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The transition from gymnastics to diving has not been an easy one for Arizona junior diver John Collier.

He's been to two different schools and struggled with the differences in the two sports.

He has put in the time and the effort and Saturday that work paid off.

Collier solidified his spot as one of the nation's top divers, defeating reigning NCAA Champion Joona Puhakka of ASU in the 3-meter competition.

"It has taken him a long time to transfer, but it has finally happened. His transition is becoming more and more complete," said Arizona head diving coach Michele Mitchell-Rocha.

Of course, being a top competitor is nothing new to the University of Kentucky transfer.

Collier was a world-class gymnastics tumbler in his youth, winning eight gold medals in international competition prior to developing shoulder problems that forced him out of the sport.

Collier said he felt that diving was the next best thing, so he started the sport his junior year in high school, improving ever since.

The transition was not easy, he said but cited his gymnastics background as a key to the move.

Collier said the first few years of diving were challenging, but the fruits of his labor can be seen in his recent success.

The Ft. Thomas, Ky., native has won four of his last five meets after finishing 15th at the Pacific 10 Conference Championships last year.

This was a far cry from his freshman season at Kentucky.

"Recruitment in Kentucky was different from what the team was actually like. Plus, I hated walking in the snow," he said. "I decided to come to Arizona because the coaches are amazing, and the team is great."

Collier said he thinks everything is coming together for him this year and if everything goes well, he will place in the top five at the Pac-10 Championship and go to the NCAA Championships.

Such achievement varied dramatically from what Collier thought he was capable of doing at the beginning of the season.

"First semester, I was not expecting that I would do this well," he said. "Working hard is really paying off."

Collier said his greatest achievement thus far is having the patience not to give up after three years. He added that he loves the team camaraderie that comes along with being with the Wildcats, as well at the team's competitive nature.

Collier attributes some of his success on the boards to Rocha, someone he said he has a lot of admiration for.

"She's been where we are and gone to the Olympics where she won two silver medals; I admire her," Collier said.

Rocha said Collier is finally at the end of his struggle, and his future seems bright.

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