At the age of 11, Amy Cozad decided she wanted to give diving a try over swimming and quickly the dream took hold to one day compete for Team USA. Now at the age of 25, she is making her dream a reality competing in the women’s synchronized 10-meter diving event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Amy is a three-time World Cup team member, an eight-time national champion and a graduate of Indiana University (IU). Amy is also a 2015 recipient of the WSF Travel & Training Fund, which provides direct financial assistance to aspiring champions – in individual and team sports – with successful competitive records who have the potential to achieve even higher performance and rankings.
Despite the time difference from New York City to Rio de Janiero, we caught up with Amy to ask her about diving, what it means to be a recipient of the Travel & Training Fund, her advice for the next generation and how she’s feeling heading into her first Olympic appearance.
WSF: How did you get into the sport of diving?
Amy: I started taking swimming lessons at the IU Natatorium when I was about 11 years old. I wasn’t a huge fan of swimming and while I was taking my lessons I could see the diving team practicing down at the other end of the pool. I thought it looked like fun so I told my aunt that I wanted to try it. So, she went and talked to the coach. She said she went down and I was standing a little ways from them and she was just talking to the coach saying, “My niece wants to join your diving team. She thinks it looks like fun. Do you think this would be possible?” And he was like, “Sure, how old is she? Like 8, 9, 10?” My aunt said, “She’s actually going to be turning 12 next month,” and he was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s tiny! Well she’s a little old to be joining the diving team, but why not. Bring her by dry land and we will see where it goes.” That was it.
WSF: This is your first Olympic appearance, what are you most looking forward to and why?
Amy: Well really I’m excited to compete. That’s the whole reason why I’m here in the first place because of my sport diving. Jessica, my partner and I, have gotten better at every competition we’ve done together and I want to keep that ball rolling. I’m so excited to see what we can do in our competition and just to keep reaching for the next personal best. But, other than competing and representing my country, I’m really excited to meet people from around the world because there are 10,000 people here. 10,000 friends that I could possibly make and that’s pretty cool.
WSF: As a 2015 recipient of the Travel & Training Fund grant, what does this grant mean to you and how will it continue to help you accomplish your athletic dreams?
Amy: Getting the grant is an opportunity. You have this Foundation set up for female athletes, just like me, and they’re willing to do this amazing thing – give you this opportunity, give you this grant to be amazing. The way I feel about it is I’m not going to take it for granted. If I’m going to be given this opportunity to improve myself and to represent the fellow women in my country and this organization then I’m going to do everything I possibly can to represent them well and represent myself and prove myself with the help of the grant. I truly believe that grant really did help me get to this point and it took off a lot of stress and pressure to have to make money outside of diving and it helped me so much.
WSF: Why did you ultimately decide to apply for the Travel & Training Fund?
Amy: I applied for the Travel & Training Fund grant in 2015 and a couple months before I had decided to move back to Indiana. So I was still trying to move back home and I was tutoring a little bit trying to make any money that I could. I wasn’t making any money from diving but I had the potential to depending on how I performed at the World Championships in the summer of 2015. I was in this weird limbo where I really really needed to make money because if I don’t then this is going to start making me nervous and anxious and ultimately it’s going to start affecting my training and I needed to take that weight off myself. That’s why I applied to the Travel & Training Fund to get that extra help that I really needed to train with ease. Ultimately I did go on to perform well at the World Championships after receiving the grant. I think the combination of I’ve been through the hardships, I’ve been struggling to make money and now this weight has been lifted off of me and I’ve got the financial support that I need, now I can really just put it all on the line and give it my all and I definitely got the result I wanted. So, thank you so much to the Women’s Sports Foundation.
WSF: What does it mean to you to represent your country this year, particularly as a female athlete?
Amy: It’s definitely empowering and I am so proud to be a part of this group of women that’s making history and that’s proving to our nation just how able women are in comparison with men. I think a big part for me is when we were doing autographs signing in Atlanta before we came [to Rio], there were moms coming through with their daughters and the mom’s would say something like “see, they’re a female and they’re being successful in their sport and they went to college, isn’t this just so motivating?” and it was really emotional to be able to prove to our younger generation and the next round of Olympians that this is possible. This could be you in five years, ten years, however long you want. I think it’s really incredible to be a part of history right now.
WSF: If there was one piece of advice or just one thing that you could tell a young girl who dreams of going to the Olympics one day and maybe being a diver, what would you say to that little girl?
Amy: I would just say if it’s truly your dream to be an Olympian then you have to do everything you possibly can do to make that dream happen because once it comes time to follow through on your plans and time to make the Olympic team you want to have the confidence in yourself knowing that you absolutely did everything you possibly could and no matter how it turns out that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. That’s how I’ve always tried to live my life is to do everything the best I possibly could, whether it’s in diving, in school, in my relationships, everything. My old coach used to say if you want to be a champion and want to act like that in your life, you have to be a champion in every aspect of your life.
Be sure to follow Amy’s Olympic journey starting August 5 through 21!
[Photo Credit: NBC Olympics]