Diving community gets shot in the arm with $10K grant

Aspiring Big Island divers got a needed assist this week when the USA Diving Foundation gave Hilo Hi-Diving a $10,000 grant for a new 1-meter stand the local club plans to use for a new 1-meter board at Kawamoto Swim Stadium.

“It’s a huge boost to our program,” said DJ Freedman, head coach of Hilo Hi-Diving, “because we are in an athletic, aquatic area that just hasn’t had all we need to encourage and grow more divers on the Big Island, this will give us a real shot at doing that.”

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Freedman came to Hilo two years from an area in Southern California where he coached a diving team with as many as 40 members. His Hilo club has just seven committed members.

The grant was one of eight given out this year by USA Diving.

“This year,” said Bill Walker, the Florida chair of USA Diving, “I think everyone that applied for a grant, got one, that’s a good sign of growth within our organization.

“The Hilo group is relatively new to us in terms of these grants, but (Freedman), while I’ve never met him personally, has a very good, solid reputation within the organization, he’s known for the good work he’s done and hopefully, this will encourage more diver in the Hilo area.

“At the end of the day, promoting diving is a huge part of what we do and it just seems that a place like Hilo should have a good, strong contingent of divers.”

The ultimate goal for Freedman, Hilo Hi-Diving and USA Diving is a shared hope of developing Olympic champions.

“I guess what it comes down to at some point is that more, or upgraded boards should mean more athletes, and that should mean more jobs for coaches and those two things should mean more strength in diving,” Walker said. “The more athletes you have involved means the more chances you have of developing another Greg Louganis (winner of gold medals in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics on both springboard and platform competition).”

Freedman sees the vision Walker referenced.

“That’s why this is so important,” Freedman said Thursday after returning from a Parks and Recreation meeting that green-lighted the 1-meter board project. “This is the beginning of the restoration of Kawamoto, because after we get the 1-meter board in operation we will begin to raise money for the 3-meter board and that’s good news for prospective divers who hope to get a college scholarship.

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“Currently, every state in the nation has 1- and 3-meter boards,” he said. “We have no three-meter boards on the Big Island and to receive a scholarship, divers need to have experience on both one- and three-meter boards. This is the start of that hope for divers on the Big Island, it’s really a big step for us and all the divers and potential divers.”

For more information, contact dj@hilohidiving.org.

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