Olympic diver Chris Colwill can’t hear when he dives. He was born with at least 60 percent hearing loss. He reads lips. Outside the pool he uses hearing aids, but can’t wear those in the pool. That means he can’t hear the referees whistle indicating he’s clear to begin a dive. He relies on a hand signal from the referee. Each meet, including here at the Olympics, he will seek out the ref during warm ups and ask him to give him a special hand signal. (Watch for him looking over to the ref before he dives).
When he was around 3 years old his parents realized something was wrong. “My mom used to get mad because I didn’t respond when she called my name, then she found out I couldn’t hear her”, recalls Chris. An active, only child, fondly nicknamed Mr. 9-1-1, his parents enrolled him in gymnastics class at a sports and aquatics center, but when he saw people diving off the platform he begged them to let him give it a try.
Here he is competing in his second Olympics with his coach from his college days at the University of Georgia by his side. Dan was in tears when Chris won his event at diving trials, with his Olympics hopes on the line Chris nailed his final dive to narrowly make the team. Anticipating it might be the end of the road, minutes before his last dive, Dan says, “I told Chris how proud he was of him and what a great ride the past 12 years had been.”
A year and a half ago a trip to London seemed nearly impossible. Colwill had broken his hand while diving and missed most of the 2011 season. He lost his top 8-world ranking and his financial support from the US Olympic committee.
A Graduate of University of Georgia with a degree in Speech communications he’s considered one of the old guys on the team at 27. He says of this Olympics, “I’ve always known I could do it, now I actually believe it.”