Diving turns brothers into friends

Updated: August 16, 2004, 11:58 PM ET
By Carrie Sheinberg | Special to ESPN.com

One dive. They had hit it a thousand times in practice. All they needed to do was hit it one more time and the gold medal was theirs. Troy and Justin Dumais, brothers from Ventura, Calif., leapt off the board in perfect synchronicity but when Troy landed, his knees buckled and the rest of the dive was off.

They never miss that dive.

Then again, they never dive with a guy dressed in a blue tutu either.

"The strangest competition? I don't know," Justin said, "it was definitely the funniest competition I've ever been in."

The men's 3-meter synchronized diving competition was moving along smoothly Monday night until a surprise entrant showed up. In the middle of the fourth round, a man ran out from the stands, bare-chested and with polka-dotted tights under his skirt, climbed up the ladder and after a brief dance belly-flopped into the pool to the tune of a roaring crowd. He was quickly escorted away, and the divers tried to pick up where they left off.

If the diving dancer's goal was to put a hex all who weren't Greek for rest of the evening's competition, he accomplished his mission. What ensued was one of the wackiest evenings in diving history. The Greeks finished with their first gold medal in diving, Germany with silver, Australia wearing bronze and the rest trying to figure out what hit them.

"That was the most bizarre thing I've ever witnessed in my life," U.S. diving coach Ken Armstrong said.

He wasn't even referring to the strange sideshow; he was talking about the fifth and final round.

First up was the perpetually perfect Chinese team of Bo Peng and Kenan Wang, who looked unbeatable all evening. Expecting to see their usual grace and beauty, the crowd shrieked, both in disbelief and in fear, as Wang plummeted to the water face first. Wang climbed out of the pool, but they received no score on that dive.

That left the door wide open for Greeks Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis, who had been steady under the hometown pressure all night long to dive into the lead with a score of 353.34 points. The crowd erupted, getting their cheers in while the lead lasted. The Cubans came up short: 338.46.

The crowd jumped a little higher.

Armstrong, sensing the enormous opportunity, made the decision to tell the brothers, who hadn't been watching, that the Chinese were out, and the Americans were in second place.

"Normally they step up at that point in time so do you tell them or don't tell them?" said Armstrong, who was still shaking his head in disbelief long after the event was over. "That's usually when I say 'OK, guys let's go.' "

Then, another shocking turn: Russian Dmitri Sautin hit his feet on the board as he somersaulted through the air. He and partner Alexander Dobroskok dropped thirty points.

Climbing up the ladder, Troy heard the Russian's feet bang the board.

"Did I let it rattle me?" Troy said later, "No. I've done that dive a thousand times."

They hit the water, Troy still in a pike position, and all of Greece rejoiced. One night compensated for years of Olympic preparation and turmoil.

"You've got to hand it to Greece," Troy said. "They went out there and performed when three out of eight teams completely bombed a dive, us being one of them."

A medal was lost for the Americans, who ended up sixth. But for the brothers who once were better known for their differences than their symmetry, the experience still shines.

"I feel closer to Troy right now then I ever have," said Justin, 27, who said this is likely to be his final diving competition. He plans to retire and become an Air Force pilot. Troy, 24, will compete again in the individual 3-meter springboard Aug. 23.

"I missed my final dive," Troy said. "It happens. I have to deal with it and move on."

"Nobody's going to remember who won this medal tomorrow ... I'm going to have my brother forever," Justin said. "If this is what needed to happen I'm glad it did."