ANDERSON, Ind. — After a nearly
four-month struggle, Mary Beth Dunnichay’s 2012 London Olympics dream was
ripped from her grasp Tuesday.
The Elwood native revealed she underwent shoulder surgery on Jan. 6 and has
been fighting to get in shape for June’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials ever since.
During a Tuesday meeting with Purdue coach Adam Soldati, however, the pair
decided further stress on the shoulder is not in the diver’s best interests.
“It’s just another obstacle,” Dunnichay said during a cell phone interview from
West Lafayette. “I’m just trying to put my head around trying to let go of
London. I hate thinking about it. I hate talking about it.”
Dunnichay has been a member of Team USA since 2006, and she finished fifth in
the 10-meter synchronized event with partner Haley Ishimatsu at the 2008 Summer
Games in Beijing.
The pair added second-place finishes at the 2009 FINA World Championships and
2010 USA Diving Grand Prix, raising expectations for the 2012 Olympics.
But injuries began taking a toll last year.
While Ishimatsu rehabbed and focused on her studies at Duke University,
Dunnichay battled through increasing shoulder pain to win the IHSAA state title
on the 3-meter springboard.
She spent most of the year diving with Texas teenager Anna James in
international competition and added another second-place finish at the 2011 USA
Diving Grand Prix.
Dunnichay arrived at Purdue in the fall with dreams of qualifying for London as
a synchronized competitor and in an individual event.
But her Olympic dreams began to go awry in December.
With both Dunnichay and Ishimatsu nursing injuries, they decided to forego a
warm-up list at the USA Diving Winter National Championships. A slow start in
prelims led to a second-place finish, and the pair failed to qualify for
February’s FINA World Cup.
National champions Amy Cozad and Laura Ryan finished 10th at the event, and the
U.S. synchronized teams were shut out of a spot in the 2012 Olympics.
Dunnichay, hoping Cozad and Ryan would earn a spot for Team USA, finally
surrendered to her pain in January. She had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff
and to reattach her biceps.
She then set a rigorous rehabilitation regime in an attempt to return in time
for the Olympic trials in Federal Way, Wash.
After the synchronized spot was taken away, Dunnichay turned all of her energy
to individual competition.
But it didn’t take long to realize something was wrong in practice.
“I couldn’t do a drill dive on the 5-meter (board) without bringing tears to my
eyes,” Dunnichay said of the pain in her surgically reconstructed shoulder.
The intense competitor inside her wanted to fight on. But Soldati eventually
prevailed on her to reconsider.
“The risk of re-injury is through the roof,” she conceded Tuesday. “I’ve gotta
get healthy. That’s No. 1. But it’s killing me to have to let go of it.”
Dunnichay now is unsure of her next move.
She’s represented the U.S. in international competition every year since she
was 13 years old, and she said she has to step back and look at the big
picture. No diver can sacrifice so much of his or her future for just one meet
— even if that meet is the Olympics.
So Dunnichay will scale back her rehab and refocus on goals that include
winning Big Ten and NCAA titles at Purdue and returning to world championship competition
over the next four years.
Still just 19 years old, she said she’s committed to taking another shot at the
But it might take awhile to get over the reality of what she’s lost in 2012.
“It’s not the end, but it feels like the end,” she said. “It’s just really bad
timing to be injured. I guess it can only go up from here.”