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Deidre Freeman aims for Rio 2016 Olympics

Mary Zheng Deidre Freeman stands on one-meter diving board of Russell K. Osgood Pool. Photo credit Mary Zheng.
Mary Zheng Deidre Freeman stands on one-meter diving board of Russell K. Osgood Pool. Photo credit Mary Zheng.
Deidre Freeman stands on one-meter diving board of Russell K. Osgood Pool. Photograph by Mary Zheng.

Over two decades ago, Will and Evelyn Freeman were shocked to see their two-year-old daughter Deidre get between two dining chairs and hold herself in the air in an iron cross position. But they are not surprised to see their now 25-year-old daughter striving to make the Olympic team and win a medal in the Rio 2016 Olympics—not with dedication and discipline like hers.

At Grinnell College, students often vent or complain about their hectic schedule, but no one will hear a complaint from her.

“She has a goal to be an Olympian,” said swim and diving head coach Erin Hurley. “When you are aiming for the top, it takes a lot of hard work.”

But even before Deidre Freeman thought about becoming an Olympian, she was already striving for excellence.

Daughter of two impressive athletes themselves, Deidre Freeman displayed her innate interest in the athletic field at a young age. In high school, besides diving, she also played softball—making All-State as a catcher—and soccer, ran track, danced on the dance team and at a dance studio and tumbled on the cheerleading squad.

“We did not push her into athletics,” said Will Freeman, men’s track and field head coach and Deidre’s father. “We wanted [her] to be involved but not for the reasons you might think. It was for social development and general motor skill development.”

She started diving in ninth grade where she eventually became a state runner-up as a senior. She then received scholarships to attend University of Iowa where she was a two-time All-American and competed in nine U.S. Senior National events. She holds the school record in one-meter, three-meter and synchronized diving.

“My college career was a long roller coaster, but I improved more than I even realized while I was living it,” she said. “The schedule [at the time] was always busier than I would have liked but it made me a stronger student, diver and person, having to balance my classes and practices twice per day.”

She also qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials, where she placed fourth in synchronized dive and 18th in the three-meter. She then represented the United States that year at the Canada Cup, placing fifth in the international meet.

The following year, she was the U.S. national champion on the three-meter board. She also earned a ticket to Barcelona in the World Diving Championships by taking second place in the one-meter and first place in the three-meter dives at the USA World Diving Championships Trials. While she was focused on the competition at Barcelona, she was excited to go back to the country where she studied abroad during her senior year in college and trained with the then head coach of the Spanish National Team.

“My favorite [international] meet was the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona,” Deidre Freeman said. “It was the most amazing city with the most amazing pool with competition against the world’s most amazing divers. The meet was more about the experience than my diving performance.”

Her series of meets continues next month in Beijing and Dubai at Fédération Internationale de Natation’s World Series. She will also compete in two Grand Prix meets in Canada in May and in Malaysia in October. She hopes to dive in Shanghai, as well, at the World Cup in July. Her ultimate goal, however, is to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

The bar is set high and hence she lives a busy life. She normally wakes up at 6:30 a.m., drives to Iowa City from Grinnell and practices from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Recently at practice, she has been focusing on a new dive, front three and a half pike on three-meter board.

“The idea in sports and in coaching is to develop competence and confidence,” Will Freeman said. “If you have both those things, you’re going to be tough to beat. If you can do the skills better than anybody and you can do it regularly in any conditions, you’re going to be hard to beat. And it takes confidence to have that and that’s just repetition.”

After practice, she drives back to Grinnell again to train and coach the divers of the Grinnell team. Outside of her diving career, Deidre Freeman believes working as a coach has been “the most amazing and rewarding experience.”

“She has been an outstanding coach,” Hurley said. “She has the ability to work well with experienced and less experienced divers. She has a very positive outlook and is dedicated to what she does.”

Her protégés agree that they learn a great deal from their diving coach.

“Deidre is a fantastic coach,” said Emma Falley ’15. “She is able to critique and compliment, which is a very necessary balance. She has a great ability in explaining what a diver needs to change or emphasize. If a person does not understand, she easily rephrases and explains in terms for the specific person she is working with.”

After her day as a coach is over, she teaches dance at Michelle’s Dance Academy in Grinnell and Newton.

According to Deidre Freeman’s parents, she is an individual that seeks excellence in everything she does. Therefore, they have no worry about her busy schedule or the potential negative effect of her schedule on her career.

“She strives for excellence in everything she does,” Evelyn Freeman said. “She wants to do the best at everything.”

Living such a hectic schedule while competing at such a high level, however, can cause problems that Deidre Freeman’s diving skills cannot solve. From commuting to meeting up and practicing with her synchronized dive partners from across the country, a large sum of money is required. The Freemans believe financial support can be a great boost to Deidre Freeman’s career. Fortunately, the Grinnell and Iowa communities are helping out.

“We’re at a place where we have a team together now that is now marketing her,” Will Freeman said. “The idea is to find sponsorship [from] Iowa companies. She is Iowa born and bred. We should keep this in Iowa.”

Despite the financial obstacle and unending repetition of practice, Deidre Freeman will continue to stand on the diving board and jump, turn and twist. She will work to get her front three and a half pike on three-meter board correctly. She will be vigilant as to how much protein she consumes per day and how much she sleeps each night.

But it is who Deidre Freeman is as a person that makes her a better diver, coach, teacher, sister and daughter.

“The thing that I’m most proud of,” Evelyn Freeman said, “is the young woman she’s grown up to be. She’s smart, kind, disciplined, happy. She’s got it all. And she’s kept it all in perspectives, over and above diving.”

If you are interested in donating to Deidre Freeman’s road to Rio 2016, visit

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