LONDON (CBS) — When Christina Loukas looks into the shimmering water of the Olympic pool, she sees the reflection of a world class athlete, who is well-trained and poised to compete on the global stage.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Grzanich reports, the Riverwoods native has been preparing for this moment all of her life and feels confident that her dream of winning an Olympic medal will finally come true in London.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Grzanich reports
“My goal is to get on the podium and win the gold medal,” she said. “I know that I can compete with the best divers in the world.”
Loukas, 26, will represent the U-S in the 3-meter springboard. Earlier this year, she placed second at the U-S Olympic Diving Trials to earn her second trip to the Olympics. In 2008, she finished ninth at the Beijing Games but this time around she has experience and maturity on her side.
“Going into this Olympics I definitely have more confidence and I’m looking forward to it,” she told WBBM Newsradio. “I didn’t have my best performance at Olympic trials, so I have much to improve on when I compete in London.”
Loukas trains twice a day Monday through Friday. In the morning, she starts out of the pool with diving mats and a gymnastic-style workout followed by about an hour in the water. In the afternoon, she hits the pool again for 90-minutes and also keeps up her regular exercise routine of yoga, Pilates and cardio.
Loukas has been preparing for competition both physically and mentally. She’s even learned how to deal with the pressure of competing on a world stage surrounded by the pressure and distraction that comes with the Olympics. “It is overwhelming when you think about it, but when you are in the competition, it’s just another competition. It’s just diving. I’m still doing the same five dives.”
And when the spotlight does turn in her direction, Loukas will be focused on a single task and a single person, not one the thousands of poolside spectators or the millions of people watching on television
“Once I’m on the diving board, it’s just me and my coach,” she said.
As a young girl, Loukas initially showed interest in gymnastics. At the age of three, her parents signed her up for classes and she tumbled her way around until the age of 12. That’s when her interest turned to diving and she became hooked after that first thrilling jump into the water. She competed through high school and college. She won the state title, the Big Ten Championship and boasts about being a nine-time national diving champion.
“Diving is all about perfection,” said Loukas. “Under the pressure, it’s just amazing to see what people can do and who can handle it.”
Loukas travelled to London with a large group of friends and family. Her “Team Chicago” included a group of 20-25 people who will cheer her on at the Games. “It’s going to be a good turnout and I am excited for everyone to be there.” Her father, George Loukas, owns the Cubby Bear Lounge in Chicago.
Loukas will make her first dive at the London Olympics on Aug. 3. The 3-meter Springboard preliminary round is scheduled for 8:30am CDT. The semi-final round is Aug. 4 at 8:30am and the final is Aug. 5 at 1pm CDT.
Before the competition begins, Loukas planned to soak in the Opening Ceremonies on Friday and will be part of the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic flame.
“Walking out in opening ceremonies with the whole USA team is just an amazing feeling,” said Loukas. “You get that sense of unity which is awesome. You just see the bigger picture of what you are actually doing and I am just really grateful and honored to be representing the country.”
This could be the last Olympics for Loukas who plans to take time off from diving after London and regroup.
“It’s been a rough rode just getting to this one. I was really burnt out about half way through and ended up taking a step back from the sport and taking some time off. I guess I will do the same thing this time around, maybe take off a year or two and play it by ear.”
You can follow Christina Loukas on Twitter @christinaloukas or join her fan club on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christina-Loukas/71049840025