April 7, 2014
BY: ROBBY VERONESI
Flying over the Mediterranean Sea en route to Mallorca, Spain, in mid-July, Tennessee diver Tori Lamp was miles away from the two-degree weather which her Lady Vol team would encounter about eight months later in Minnesota at NCAA championships, what would be her final collegiate diving event.
The March weekend certainly seemed further off in the distance, especially while Lamp and her fellow American teammates posed for some pictures with tennis superstar and Mallorca native Rafael Nadal on the plane.
Not too shabby of a start to the past year that was for the Knoxville senior.
In a career full of record-breaking highs and nagging lows, the final year in Lamp's college career certainly provided several amazing memories.
A member of the 2013 Olympic Performance squad, Lamp automatically qualified for the upcoming world trials. So, soon after the 2012-13 season ended, Lamp headed to Florida for three weeks, highlighted by the World Championship Trials in Tallahassee, Fla.
Approximately 100 of the top American divers from across the country came to Florida State, vying for a spot on either the World Championship squad or the World University Games squad. By winning the 10-meter competition, Lamp became the third Lady Vol ever to make the U.S. team.
"I honestly was really confident," said Lamp. "I thought I'd be a lot more nervous, but once the completion started, I just went out there and dove. After the first day of competition after two rounds, I was leading by over 60 points. Going into finals two and a half days later, I knew I still had to dive well, but I had a little bit of a cushion."
This victory didn't result in just a trophy or medal, but an inclusive trip to the Mediterranean coast. The 2013 World Championships were held in beautiful, sunny Barcelona, Spain, as well as a week of `adjustment' on the island of Mallorca.
"It was a really rough week...not," noted Lamp. "That week was really about getting adjusted to the time change. We would dive in the morning and the afternoon and sometimes in between an earlier session, we would do flips off the rocks into the sea and go snorkeling."
Team USA, consisting of active and former college divers from schools across the country, flew back to the mainland for the competition a week after landing in Mallorca. For a team made of mostly newcomers diving in their first international competition, nerves soon morphed into excitement as the competition started up.
"My preliminaries didn't go that well," Lamp recalled. "I let the nerves get to me and I snuck into 18th place, so I barely made the semifinals. After that, I was so much more comfortable competing, so when I came back from the semifinal, I was in ninth.
"I improved a lot more and was diving like I had been. I was just thrilled to be in a world championship final. Overall, I finished 10th. (I) didn't dive the best I had been, but overall it was so exciting."
As if the competition and trip to Spain wasn't enough, Lamp was in for one more special surprise, courtesy of Lucas, her boyfriend at the time.
In warmups before the finals, Lamp suffered a mild concussion after a bad landing on a dive attempt, After the doctor performed some tests, all that Lamp wanted to do was sleep in the hotel room. Everyone else had other plans, however.
Tori's sister, Jennifer, convinced her to put on a dress, since everyone else was doing such that night. Everyone then went down to the magnificent Magic Fountains--Font Magica de Montjuic--for a nighttime stroll, a place where Tori wanted to go all week.
The scene has been set: nighttime in one of Spain's romantic cities. Classical music projects from the speakers as the water from the fountain gracefully dances around in perfect synchronicity. Up, down, over, all around, full of life, colored lights which illuminate the area, as well as the oohs and aahs from the crowds around the fountains.
Like a beautiful diver, the fountains reach feats that leave the crowds speechless, twisting and jumping around until the big finale at the end. In this case, the big finale for Tori started with a simple question.
"Can we take a picture?"
Cue the parents with the video camera. Cue the question that every girl wants to hear. Cue the excited `yes!' Cue a newly engaged couple! Not too bad of an ending to a summer in Spain.
"It was kind of a perfect picture," Tori said. "He got me a rose while we were there and there were so many people around. It's just the thing to do at night, so that was really exciting. The whole team was just excited for me. It couldn't have been a better time or place. It was magical."
From Barcelona to Athens (Georgia, that is), Lamp had a pretty successful season as a redshirt senior, which only began the success leading up to SEC Championships. After a solid diving season, Lamp stepped onto the platform, having completed the 1-meter and 3-meter without a medal.
She wouldn't be denied a medal in all three events.
Barcelona was the last time Lamp had dived in the platform competition, even though she was the two-time SEC champion in the event. No dives during the regular season didn't prevent her from scoring a 356.10 and shattering the former SEC record, thanks in part to a little friendly competition.
"When we were getting announce for finals, they were introducing us and they were introducing Laura (Ryan, UGA) because she broke my record in prelims," said Lamp. "For some reason, they telling me that she had the SEC record, I just got a lot of confidence. I know that can be a negative sometimes, but for me, it was just like `no, I can do this.'
"I was visualizing not only the corrections that Dave (Parrington, head diving coach) wanted me to focus on, but the times that I had done that dive the best. I just let my body do the work. Overall, I had a lot of confidence in my abilities and just used what I knew to get it done. After each round, I gained more confidence after I hit my dives. I really wanted it badly to end my career at SECs."
It comes as no surprise for Tennessee swimming and diving fans. Now that Tori Lamp has finished her final season on Rocky Top, it is known that she has ended on top in the SEC. The three gold medals are hers, the SEC record is hers. A very fitting ending to a very fantastic career.