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Diver Amy Cozad Magaña Personifies Persistence

Amy Cozad Magaña

Matt Roberts/Getty Images

One day, just for fun, the swim team headed to the diving area. A fifth-grader, Cozad Magaña didn’t hesitate jumping off the 1-meter platform — and she loved the feeling as soon as she landed.

Amy Cozad Magaña loves math and science, passions that run in her family.

Her grandfather was a biology teacher, her grandmother a pharmacist, her father an architect and an aunt a veterinarian.

One of America’s top divers, Cozad Magaña even applies her mathematically-minded perspective to her sport.

Amy Cozad Magana Mug
Amy Cozad Magaña

“In math, things are black and white: ‘x equals three,’ the end,” Cozad Magaña said. “In diving, you go vertical and rip it or you don’t. It helps me take the emotion and frustration out of the sport and get down to focusing on how to jump higher, spin faster and make a smaller splash.”

That mindset served her well as a young athlete because Cozad Magaña wasn’t distracted by what her peers were doing or where they were placing. In high school, she never made an international team or medaled at nationals; her top finish was sixth place toward the end of her sophomore year.

“I never paid too much attention to results,” she said, “and I never set expectations too high.”

Instead, Cozad Magaña’s singular focus was on listening to her coach, Sean McCarthy at the Indiana International School of Diving, and constantly tweaking and improving her dives and techniques.

Lightly recruited out of high school, Cozad Magaña was turned away from her top two collegiate choices. But after arriving at Indiana University, Cozad Magaña greatly benefited from another experienced and talented coach, Jeff Huber.

The Team USA diving coach for the 2000 to 2008 Olympics Games, Huber noted that he likes overlooked athletes with untapped potential. Besides, Cozad Magaña’s mathematical mind affected her ability to process an early and difficult conversation with him.

Huber closely monitored Cozad Magaña’s effort level in her first few practices. After two strong days, Cozad Magaña’s effort lessened over the next three days.

Then, in Saturday’s practice, Cozad Magaña’s was physically there but not mentally or emotionally.

“She was just a body at practice,” Huber recalled.

Huber shared with Cozad Magaña’s what he thought she was capable of: Making the U.S. Olympic team.

He asked Cozad Magaña what she needed to do to make that a reality.

Cozad Magaña: “Top two at Olympic Trials?”

Huber: “No.”

Cozad Magaña: “Dive really well?”

Huber: No.

After a pause, Huber provided her the answer.

“To make the Olympic Team,” he told her, “you will have to work harder than anyone else in the U.S. every day in practice. Not just some days in practice.”

In his experience, Huber said most athletes become defensive, insisting that they do work hard.

“Instead, (Cozad Magaña) simply said, ‘OK,’ and then she worked her rear end off every day for the remainder of her career,” Huber said.

Humble Start 

From an early age, Cozad Magaña loved swimming. But when she transitioned to the competition pool, she immediately disliked the cold temperature of the water.

“The workouts were long and hard and monotonous, and the pool was freezing!” Cozad Magaña said.

One day, just for fun, the swim team headed to the diving area. A fifth-grader, Cozad Magaña didn’t hesitate jumping off the 1-meter platform — and she loved the feeling as soon as she landed.

“It was relieving. It was like jumping into a bathtub,” she said. “It was like, ‘Whoa. This is so amazing. I want to do this all the time.’ ”

Just before Cozad Magaña turned 12, she met McCarthy, and she appreciated his coaching style and fervently followed his lead. He focused her training on basic principles of diving, and he insisted she practice on 5- and 7-meter platforms. That was a different approach than other diving coaches, who had their athletes train on 10-meter platforms earlier.

While Cozad Magaña didn’t have a bunch of trophies or medals, she had something else few others had in their repertoire: a reverse 3½ tuck, one of the hardest platform dives in the world.

Huber was intrigued.

“Sean McCarthy was instrumental in her development,” Huber said. “She had a great foundation by the time she got to me. I give Sean much credit for Amy’s later successes.”

Finally, as a collegiate freshman, Cozad Magaña won a title in the USA Diving National Championships. As a sophomore, she was an All-American. As a senior, she won the Big Ten title with a record score of 390.05.

But she missed qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics by one spot, finishing third on the platform. After the 2013 World Championships, the six-time national champion retired from the sport.

Eight months later, Huber texted her a short note.

"I still think you can be an Olympian,” Huber wrote. 

Amy Cozad Magaña
Amy Cozad Magaña has her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Photo courtesy USA Diving

Grand Return 

Cozad Magaña returned to the sport and reframed her mindset. She and fellow Hoosier diver Jessica Parratto (then a freshman) formed a potent synchronized team. Their first breakthrough occurred in 2014, when they were crowned winter national champions. They followed that up with a victory at the 2015 Synchronized National Championships, a ninth-place finish at the 2015 World Championships and fourth at the 2016 Diving World Cup.

Earning a spot in the women’s 10-meter synchronized diving event at the Olympics is daunting; the field is comprised of just eight teams, with the host nation automatically receiving entry.

On June 22, 2016, Cozad Magaña and Parratto secured their trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics by scoring 935.76. They were so dominant that day, their spot was locked up before their final dive.

“I was so happy to see her make the 2016 team,” Huber said. “But I am equally happy at what she has accomplished academically and what type of woman she has become — a terrific role model for young girls to emulate.”

Cozad Magaña called the Olympic experience “overwhelming.”

“Diving doesn't get much national attention. We might have 20 people show up for Nationals,” she said. “Thousands show up (at the Olympics) so it was overwhelming. It was a heck of an experience. I met some incredible people, saw some incredible moments.”

Cozad Magaña and Parratto finished seventh out of eight teams.

Since the Olympics, Cozad Magaña got married, and she’s thankful for her life with her husband Alex and dogs, B and Manny.

“Honestly, it makes things more solidified and comforting,” Cozad Magaña said. “It’s nice to have one thing in my life that’s stable. Diving changes every day, and I do my best. My school work, I do my best. But with Alex, I don’t have to try so hard.”

Cozad Magaña has her sights set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and she applies her unique mindset to achieving that goal. She earned a bronze medal at the 2018 Bolzano FINA Grand Prix in the 10-meter mixed synchro event.

“I have a good training plan,” she said, “and I feel like I’m on track.”

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