COLUMBUS — Cheyenne Cousineau is the breed of stuntman known as a platform diver, operating at speeds better suited for a car than a human knifing three stories into an unforgiving pit of water.
The Temperance native and Ohio State All-American has twice fractured her back and endured all manner of tears, sprains, and strains. And Saturday, she returned from a pulled abdomen to dive at the World Championship trials in Tallahassee.
Cousineau lives by a motto of the sport: “If you’re not hurt,” she said, “you’re not training.”
Yet ask her if it is all worth it, and there is no hesitation.
“Definitely,” Cousineau said. “It’s what I love doing. It’s got me to Ohio State and I love Ohio State and I love my coach and the team. I might not be saying this when I’m 80, but right now, it’s all worth it. ... Sometimes I sit there and [wonder], then I realize how good I have it.”
Above all, she said, “I still have my life.”
Three years after suffering a stroke caused by a blood clot in her brain, Cousineau continues to thrive.
The 21-year-old Bedford graduate won a Big Ten championship in the 10-meter platform in her first year back last spring. And, in March, she earned All-American honors with a fourth-place finish at the NCAA championship meet.
Now, Cousineau, a three-time Michigan state champion, is vying to take her game global. She and Murphy Bromberg, a Duke-bound high school senior and a fellow member of the U.S. National Team, will compete in the 10-meter synchronized diving finals Monday at Florida State.
Cousineau and Bromberg lead a field of four teams through Saturday’s preliminary round with a five-dive score of 301.14 — more than 30 points ahead of the runner-up tandem. If they keep pace through the finals, the pair will advance to the World Championships in Barcelona from July 19-Aug. 4. (The qualifying duo also has to meet a target score of 568 points over the two rounds.)
“I’m excited,” said Cousineau, who also planned to dive in the individual 10-meter competition before pulling out because of the abdominal strain. “I think we have a very good shot of making the world team. [Bromberg] is a club diver at Ohio State, so we’re able to train together more frequent than most synchro teams.”
Cousineau hopes to keep diving through the next Olympic cycle and make a run at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, though she knows plans can change.
Few have a greater appreciation for the moment — a perspective forged by the stroke that left her fighting to live on July 29, 2010 — and her sport.
Platform diving is neither for the meek nor the experienced. The toll of years spent hitting the water at speeds up to 40 miles per hour from a height of 33 feet usually leaves a short window for success. While springboard divers often compete into their 30s, the oldest platform medalist in the 2012 Olympics was 19.
Cousineau, who is on course to graduate with a degree in psychology in 2015, has learned the dangers first-hand. A strain that kept the redshirt junior from competing in two lead-up events this month is the least of her all-time diving injuries, a roster that includes stress fractures in her back in 2006 and 2007 and a torn thumb ligament.
Yet she and Ohio State coach Vince Panzano — who said he recalled thinking Cousineau was better than any of his current divers the first time he recruited her at Bedford — believe there is more to accomplish. For now, there is nothing Cousineau would rather be doing.
“I still have my life, whereas a few years ago I was fighting for it,” she said. “I realize if all things were to go as planned, I might not appreciate what I do have in diving. That’s why I think the injuries are blessings because it does help put it all in perspective because I’ve really been able to appreciate the things I’ve been given and been blessed with.”
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.