<strong>LOGAN—</strong>With the 2012 Olympic games right around the corner, athletes across the world are preparing for what many would consider the most important moment in their lives. They come from all over to represent their countries, their families, and themselves. Eight years ago, one of those athletes represented Cache Valley.
Justin Wilcock is a Smithfield native and a 1997 graduate of Sky View High School. He grew up in the pool and was a member of the Bobcats dive team. While there, he was a four-time region champion and a four-time state medal winner. After graduating, Wilcock took his talents to Brigham Young University.
“Being from a small town, I had to go to Salt Lake for a lot of my training, but I had a lot of great support in the valley,” Wilcock said. “(It was great) to be able to represent not just the country, but Cache Valley … being from a small town doesn’t mean you have to be limited on what you can achieve.”
A 1998 All-American, Wilcock snagged the second spot in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens in the 3-meter springboard competition. Having switched from gymnastics to diving at the age of 12, the qualifying was a dream come true.
“It’s kind of hard to describe, but probably the best way to describe it is it’s exactly what you’d imagine it to be,” Wilcock said. “There’s a big buzz or energy around – just a lot going on. With so many events going on and so many people there, there’s just a great energy there.”
Unfortunately for Wilcock, the elation over finally achieving his dream was short-lived. While weight training in preparation for the Olympics, he suffered a stress fracture in his back. Wilcock said he took some time off and rehabbed the injury and it started to feel better. However, the pain picked up again just a couple days before he was to compete.
Wilcock gritted through the pain, but was simply unable to perform at his top level, finishing last out of the 32 divers. Despite the poor timing of the injury, he was lauded by the media for his perseverance, and received a loud ovation from the crowd in Athens.
“You’ve worked your whole life for this … and it wasn’t how I planned it in my head,” Wilcock said. “I still got to achieve my goal and compete in the Olympics, and I still had a good experience that way.”
Following his disappointment at the Athens games, Wilcock stepped away from diving for roughly six months to heal, and then once again hit the training regimen hard. With Olympic aspirations once again, Wilcock began preparing for the 2008 Beijing games.
“As athletes, you’re focused 100 percent on training and you have to be. The Chinese are doing 10 hours a day, six days a week and they don’t take vacations,” he said. “That’s what you’re up against. If you have to be worrying about all this other stuff, there’s no way you’re going to be able to compete at their level.”
During that training, Wilcock managed to find enough time to get married. In May of 2006, he married his wife Carol. Following the wedding though, it was back to training. However, Wilcock came up just short in 2008 as he missed out on a spot in the Beijing games, though he was named an alternate for the 2008 Olympics.
Following the 2008 Olympic games, Wilcock moved on from more than 17 years of intense training and focus and officially retired from the sport. The change from Olympic athlete to husband was certainly a major transition in his life.
“Right after I retired I started sending out my resume and tried to get something lined up. I kind of faced the same challenges everyone does when they’re trying to get a job, but it was difficult because I didn’t have any work experience,” Wilcock said. “A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, having Olympian on your resume is huge,’ but that didn’t seem to matter to get past that first stage.”
Eventually, working with a group called Athletes to Business, Wilcock landed a job with Waste Management. Nearly four years after retiring, Wilcock now works with general contractors on their construction waste recycling. That job took him to Pleasanton, Calif. where he lives with his family.
Along with his wife, Wilcock now has two children as well. The couple’s son Samuel is almost two, while their daughter, Estelle, is three months old. Wilcock said a lot has certainly changed in four years.
“It’s a big change going from training every day all day, and being at the top of your sport, and then going into a field where you’re starting at the bottom and working your way up again,” he said. “I think (four) years later I’ve adjusted to that and enjoying this change and enjoying getting involved with the organization and the construction industry.”
Despite working in an office instead of a pool, Wilcock stays involved with his sport, as he is the diving representative for the U.S. Olympic Committee, as well as being on the Board of Directors for USA Diving.
He was also recently honored by his hometown Bobcats, as he was inducted to the Sky View Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.
“To be recognized by the school, especially being from a sport that’s less popular – not basketball or football, the big main ones. To be recognized for what I did in my sport is nice and means a lot, so that was a great honor,” Wilcock said.