From: Frank Gorman
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 6:52 PM
Subject: Chris Seufert Sholtis - Olympic Judge
The Saline Reporter - Michigan
Olympian Chris Seufert Sholtis to help judge the
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It's been 28 years since Saline resident Chris Seufert Sholtis won Olympic
bronze in diving and now she's hoping to give back to the sport that gave her so
much, but this time as an Olympic judge.
Sholtis will travel to London this summer for what's officially known as the Games of the XXX Olympiad to be an international judge for the United States.
"This is something I never thought I would ever do," she said during in an interview in her home in Saline.
Still weary from traveling to London to judge for the FINA World Cup of diving, Sholtis reflected on her lifelong connection to diving and the winding path the sport has taken her down.
Sholtis retired from diving soon after winning her Olympic medal in the women's three-meter springboard diving competition in Los Angeles in 1984.
At the time, she said, diving was such a central part of her life, the break from the sport was difficult.
"It's really a shock to the body," she said, wiping away tears. "One day, your life is set for you and the next it's completely different."
Sholtis competed in diving for 13 years, culminating with her bronze medal at the age of 27. She was also a part of the 1980 U.S. Olympic diving team, the year the United States boycotted the Olympics in Moscow.
Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984 - 3 meter springboard
BRONZE - Chris Seufert (USA) GOLD - Sylvie Bernier (CAN) Silver - Kelly McCormick (USA)
A/P photo Bob Daugherty
She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1978 with a teaching degree and said she put her life on hold while she followed her passion for diving and her dream of being an Olympian.
Although she said she cherishes her rise to the pinnacle of Olympic accomplishment, she is candid about the sacrifice athletes make for their sport.
"People just assume that if you win a medal, the sponsors will sweep in and your life is set," she said. "This only happens with a select few."
As Sholtis stepped out of the Olympic spotlight and away from the regimented lifestyle of a trained diver, she struggled to find her footing, but never strayed far from the sport she had loved since childhood.
She did some age group coaching for divers in Chelsea for six years and also started working at the Domino's world headquarters in Ann Arbor. She was laid off in 1990.
Along the way, she met her husband and started a family. Her son is now a sophomore at the University of Michigan and her daughter is a junior at Saline High School.
Sholtis said neither of her children is a diver.
When people ask her why her children never got into the sport, Sholtis answers frankly: "They never asked."
She said she wanted her children to follow their own interests.
Her daughter is an avid dancer and her son just recently revived his involvement in ice hockey.
She said her own parents were extremely supportive of her diving ambitions.
"Being able to show them the world while competing was wonderful," Sholtis said.
Her father died three months before the Olympics in Los Angeles. Her mother died of cancer in 2002.
Sholtis used to do some motivational talks for schoolchildren, hoping they would get a spark to set their own goals.
She would tell the students that the best thing they can do is to get an education.
"I would just tell them to not put parameters on what you think you can do or accomplish. Work hard every single day. Never give up and keep moving forward," she said to them.
Sholtis never dreamed her move forward would put her in the judge's seat, giving her a different perspective and a renewed connection to diving.
She said it was fellow 1984 Olympiad and silver medalist Kelly McCormick who urged her to get involved in the sport again through USA Diving.
The not-for-profit organization is recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as the governing body for the sport in the United States. It provides the framework and resources to select and train U.S. diving teams, as well as provide a pool of officials for judging national and international competitions.
Sholtis received her official certification three years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has since traveled to places like Shanghai, China, Veracruz, Mexico, and Alberta, Canada, judging divers on an international stage.
The sport, she says, has changed a lot since she won her bronze medal and seems to have a rekindled spirit after losing some of its zest over the years.
Diving boards are lighter and thinner, dives are more difficult and calculated and Olympic rules have changed, she said.
"You're looking for all the same things, just on a different level," she said.
"I had to put aside my preconceptions of what a '10' was," she said, remembering the artistically elegant dives of Greg Louganis, who won two Olympic gold medals in 1984 and many other Olympic and international titles.
She compared these graceful dives to the quick, logistically concise and spinning dives of top divers from China.
China has dominated the sport for many years, but, she said, USA Diving has changed for the better and the organization is giving the U.S. back some of its competitive edge.
"The United States had gone stagnant as far as medals for a long time," she said, "but they are coming back."
At the Federation Internationale de Natation World Cup in London, she said, the United States earned all of its Olympic diving spots except the women's synchro event.
The U.S. Olympic trials for diving will be held in June in Federal Way, Washington, with about 120 divers competing for 16 spots on the U.S. Diving Team.
Looking back on her moment on the podium and being a part of the Olympic team, Sholtis said, it is hard to put into words what it felt like.
"Being in the Olympic stadium is a phenomenal experience," she said. "I'm looking forward to being there in a totally different capacity."
She said her return to the Olympic realm as a judge rather than an athlete will allow her to see more of the Olympic Village and the area beyond.
"It has also given me a great opportunity to do something for a sport that has given a lot to me. I want to help it get back to the great sport that it once was."
She said the sport has allowed her to meet people from all over the world and given her great memories.
Is she nervous about judging Olympiads?
"No, not really. It's like riding a bicycle. It all comes back to you," she said, adding that she has learned a lot since gaining her official certification and draws from her own experience as a diver.
When asked whether any experience has ever topped her Olympic medal win, Sholtis was quick to say: "I think I topped that experience when I had my kids, but that is on a whole different level."
Lori Maranville is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.