Teenage Diver Jessica Parratto

They call them "hopefuls," those happy few who make it to the Olympic trials. But for athletes like Jessica Parratto, hope takes a back seat to good ol' hard work.

Most teenagers spend their summers scooping ice cream, working as camp counselors or simply relaxing. Not 17-year-old Jessica Parratto. The Dover native is one of about 100 US divers who will compete at the Olympic Trials in June, vying for a spot at the 2012 London Summer Olympics (July 27-August 12). A diver since age 5, Parratto dove for the US National Team in 2010 and 2011. Here, we catch up with her on her New Hampshire roots, growing up with Jenny Thompson (yes, that Jenny Thompson) and being a teenager on a national stage.

You're an Olympic hopeful at the age of 17. How does it feel to be competing at such young age? Do you ever wish you could just be a kid for a while?
Sometimes it's intimidating competing with the older and more experienced divers but I really look up to them and have so much fun competing with them. I do wish at times I could do things a normal teenager would do, like go to school dances or high school football games, but I'm doing something most teenagers don't get the opportunity to do and that's really special to me to be able to experience that at a young age.

Your dad coached gold-medalist swimmer Jenny Thompson (who is slated to be inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame), your mom was a college diver and your sister swims at the University of Pennsylvania. Was there ever a chance you wouldn't end up in the water?
I grew up around the water my whole life. When I was a baby, my mom used to carry me around in a backpack while she coached at the pool. I love the beach too. Whenever I visit home I always love going to Rye Beach and enjoy the ocean!

Do you ever feel pressure to match Thompson's illustrious career? How did growing up in the same town, Dover, influence your aspirations?
No, not at all. Jenny is such an amazing athlete and has accomplished so many incredible things. I just want to do the best I can and make her and Dover proud. Being born and raised in a small town I've gotten so much support and love from everybody and I am so thankful.

You moved from New Hampshire to Indianapolis in 2009. How has your life changed since then?
My life has changed in so many ways since then. In terms of diving, training here in Indianapolis allowed me to improve to the point where I was able to qualify for international competition and become one of the top platform divers in the country. Personally my life changed in a way that I don't get to see my friends and family in NH as often as I want and I've had to sacrifice a lot.

You dive from platforms three stories in the air. Aren't you even a little bit scared of heights?
Absolutely. I've gotten more used to it since I first started, but learning new dives on 10 meter can be really scary. The key is to get off the platform as soon as possible. The longer you stand there, the harder it is to get yourself to go.

The Olympic Trials fall right around your 18th birthday. Have any other plans to celebrate?
My coach and I have the same birthday so we usually have a pool party at his house to celebrate with my teammates and friends. It's always a lot of fun!

Diving requires such focus and discipline. What do you and your teammates do for fun?
For fun we go to the movies or go shopping and just hang out. I see my teammates 24/7 and they are all like family to me so we're really close with each other.

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