For his first leap, Dominic Giordano splits his legs to reach the edge of the diving board, landing to form a triangle with his left leg first and his right poised with a pointed toe.
Full of momentum from the first leap, he straightens his right leg in the air with his second jump, both toes pointed, preparing for a record-breaking dive.
He hits the board one last time, springing upward, tucking himself into a tight crescent shape and rotating through the air like a pinwheel. He straightens himself into a vertical position just seconds before breaking the water’s surface.
Giordano emerges from the pool an NCAA champion.
A former PIAA class AAA diving champion at Pine-Richland High School, Giordano, now a junior, has made a serious splash at Pitt since transferring from Florida State University prior to his sophomore season.
On March 25, Giordano captured the individual NCAA title in the three-meter dive at the 2016 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta. Giordano is the first Pitt swimmer or diver ever to win an individual NCAA title.
In the process, he qualified for his first U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which will be held June 18 in Indianapolis.
Despite garnering a fair amount of attention off the board, Giordano doesn’t expect to make the Olympic team this year.
The humanities major said he rarely concerns himself with competitive outcomes as it is.
“It’s really hard to set goals and expectations because if I have an end goal [and don’t meet it], then it is a failure for me,” Giordano said. “And that’s not healthy.”
Instead of setting specific competitive goals — a tactic widely suggested by a smattering of self-help and athletic training books — Giordano actively rids his mind of them, opting instead for a zen-like focus on well being.
“Taking care of yourself emotionally and mentally is massive,” Giordano said. “It’s such a long season. You need to take care of yourself.”
His method has made him a role model for first-year diver Nathan Crikelair, who admires Giordano’s attitude towards the sport.
“[Giordano] is at the pool day in and day out,” Crikelair said. “While he sometimes has a bad practice, as everyone does, he manages to work around it and come back the next day with a big smile on his face … And I think that’s what really makes a good diver.”
The junior diver doesn’t just lead by example — Crikelair said he’s frequently ready with a piece of advice for his teammates.
“He also coaches me from time to time,” Crikelair said. “Every time he tells me a little tip, it always works.”
Giordano’s focus on emotional support and not letting the competition blur his good-natured attitude is even visible at meets, according to sophomore diver Meme Sharp.
Sharp, Pitt’s record holder for the three-meter dive with a score of 342.45 points, said her teammate roots for everyone at meets — including rivals from other schools.
“[Giordano] is the type of guy that will cheer just as loud for his competition as he does for his teammates,” Sharp said. “He is very outgoing, upbeat and he wants to see good diving, even if they are his biggest competition.”
Despite claiming he doesn’t have the competitive edge or goal-minded attitude that pushes most athletes forward, the awards and records have continued to roll in for the star diver.
Giordano was named the ACC’s Male Diver of the Week three times in October and once in January, swept the 1M and 3M dives at the Virginia Tech and Notre Dame meet and broke a 17-year-old Trees Hall pool record with a 439.73-point 3M dive in a meet against Georgia Tech.
Pitt head diving coach Julian Krug has been preparing Giordano for his Olympic Trials debut. Neither one has expectations of qualifying.
“[Giordano] is really not pointing to make the Olympic team,” Krug said. “It’s an experience thing for him … I want him to perform well for himself.”
Entering the trials, Giordano has decided to perform a springboard dive, rather than the 10-meter platform.
In the future, Giordano plans on coaching diving — not a surprising career path for the encouraging athlete — and becoming a church musician.
He’s looking forward to the summer, and not just for the trials. Afterward, he’ll enjoy a few weeks of rest — a longer break than he’s had in a while.
“I don’t think I have had a real offseason for like eight years,” Giordano said.
Krug, despite recognizing that Giordano is likely at the end of his career, is giving his diver one last push.
“The other thing that I ask him all the time is, ‘How do you want to remember this time?’” Krug said. “What you do in this year, how you perform, is a memory that will not go south. If you can add to that, more power to you.”