LONDON (CBS) — Illinois-native Kelci Bryant and partner Abby Johnston won the silver medal Sunday in Women’s Synchronized 3-meter Springboard diving at the 2012 Olympics in London.
This is the first U-S Women’s diving medal since 2000 and the first ever in the synchronized event. This is also the first medal for Bryant, 23, a two-time Olympian who grew up in downstate Chatham near Springfield.
“Our curse is out of the way,” said Bryant. Abby and I just kicked it off with this event and I think the rest of the team is going to come through,” she said.
Bryant and Johnston finished with a 321.90, just behind the gold-medal score of 346.20 by China’s He Zi and Wu Minxia. Canada’s Jennifer Abel and Emilie Heymans won the bronze medal with a score of 316.90. China is the top contender in London and won seven of eight gold medals four years ago.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Kevin Bryant, Kelci’s brother who is in London with his sister. “She put a lot of effort into this over the past 10-12 years and I am just really happy for her and very proud of her. When I saw her down on the pool deck, she looked excited.”
In 2008, Bryant finished fourth at the Beijing Olympics, just one spot shy of earning a medal in the Women’s Synchronized 3-meter Springboard event. She came to this Olympics with maturity, experience and a new partner.
“I couldn’t have done it without my other half,” wrote Johnston in a Tweet that also included a photo of the medal. At a later news conference she added, “If you have the performance of your life, you’re going to be happy. “We had the performance of our lives and I’m ecstatic.”
The American pair was third after round one but then moved into second place and held onto a 1.5-point lead over Canada until after the fourth round.
Before competing, Bryant talked about the pressure being on the U-S women divers to win medals in London but said it had strengthened her resolve and had given the pair renewed confidence.
“It’s made us more prepared,” she said. Her defeat in Beijing also fueled the drive for a medal in London. “I think it makes it extra rewarding knowing that I am going to get a second shot because a lot of people don’t.”
About competing in her second Olympics, Bryant said, “Taking part in the Olympics means I get to represent my country in a way that not a lot of people will get to do, but that millions of people dream of doing. To me, it’s an honor to be born with this talent and have the family support that I need.”
Bryant is a nine-time national champion, two-time NCAA champion and four-time NCAA All-American diver. She currently lives in Minneapolis.
You can follow Bryant on Twitter @Kelci_Bryant.