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“Like an amazing roller coaster, but you’re not strapped in”

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Laurel Springs School online student and Olympic alternate

Laurel Springs student Steele Johnson and his diving partner competing at the 2012 Olympic Trials

Laurel Springs student Steele Johnson exudes energy. He has an incredible level of personal motivation, and it’s no wonder that in his sixteen years, he’s been able to accomplish more than many adults. With a supportive family and network of friends rooting for him, Steele has made a name for himself in the international diving scene. His most recent feat was to capture the Olympic alternate spot for the men’s 10-meter synchronized diving event at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Platform diving is not for the faint of heart. Leaping from a 10-meter diving platform is the equivalent of jumping off the roof of a three-story building, and divers can reach speeds of thirty miles per hour—while negotiating the complex twists, somersaults, and tucks that earn them the most points. The synchronized 10-meter event adds the challenge of mirroring a diving partner, which requires a laser focus on split-second timing for each portion of the dive.  Steele says that during such a dive, “it feels like you are on an amazing roller coaster, but you’re not strapped in.” 

The first time Steele braved the 10-meter platform was when he was only eight years old.  During a dive camp, coach Ron O’Brien (who previously coached Greg Louganis) asked the group of young divers if any of them wanted to try a platform dive. Steele was the only child to volunteer. Since then, he has been hooked. “Diving is an extreme amount of fun.”  Since 2007, Steele has won medals in national and international diving competitions, including the Junior National Championships and Junior Pan Am Championships. 

A typical day for Steele involves eight hours of training, and additional time for academic assignments, but Steele still makes time to hang out with his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and his friends. After spending time in private and public school, as well as homeschooling with his mother, Steele made the switch to Laurel Springs in eighth grade. Now in eleventh grade, he said that the transition to Laurel Springs was easy. “A lot of people think that your social life will drop out if you go to an online school. That isn’t true. I kept my friends from church, school, diving, and the neighborhood.”  He stays in touch with his teachers via email. “I communicate with them a lot.”  One of his teachers, Joy Diskin, said, “Steele is not only a wonderful student and a terrific person, but he is also one of the most punctual people of any age that I’ve encountered.  His work is consistently on time and thoughtfully produced, which is quite an accomplishment for someone as busy as he is!”

When he thinks about his future, Steele envisions competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, attending college, and continuing his daily vlog (video blog) which gives viewers a peek into his everyday life.  “I’m really interested in film and video editing.  In college, I’ll probably major in film or computer engineering.”  In addition to role models from the diving world (David Boudia, Nick McCrory, and Thomas Finchum—all stars of the 10-meter platform), Steele gives his parents a substantial amount of credit for his success. “When I have kids of my own, I hope to be as good a parent as each of them has been to me.”

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