Olympic Diver Chris Colwill Greets Well Wishers at the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center

Chris Colwill stopped by the center on Saturday to sign autographs before heading to London next week.

Thanks to Brandon native Chris Cowill, the area will be well represented when the 2012 Olympics in London get under way July 27.

Colwill won a spot on the United States Olympic dive team with a picture-perfect performance in the men’s 3-meter springboard during the U.S. Olympic Trials June 24 in Federal Way, Wash.

Before heading to London next week, Colwill, who now lives in Athens, Ga., paid a visit to his old training grounds, the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center, Saturday to thank his supporters.

Colwill said he knew the moment he'd hit the water after his dive at trials that he was headed to London.

"It's my favorite dive and I always save it for the end because I know I can give it 110 percent," said Colwill in between signing photos for his fans.

"it was the most exciting dive I've seen in the 20 years I've been watching Chris dive," said his father, Chuck.

Nevertheless, two years ago, Colwill wasn't sure if he'd try out for the Olympic team.

Considered one of the country's top divers, Colwill first made the Olympic dive team in 2008, coming in 12th at the Beijing games.

"I thought about retirement after the 2008 games but then I realized I really wanted to keep diving," said Colwill, 27. "But this will be the last time for me."

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Colwill gives credit to the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center for his success in the sport.

"It made me who I am today," he said.

Colwill began swimming at the center at the age of 5, eventually joining the center's dive program under then-coach Joe Greenwell.

"I spent my childhood here," he said. "It kept me out of trouble and I met a lot of friends."

He went on to dive competitively at Tampa Prep under coach Jenny Frankowiak.

"I watched him grow up and saw the Olympic potential in him at a young age," said Frankowiak. "I knew he'd go far."

Even as a youngster, Colwill was completely dedicated to the sport, said neighbor Zoila Walter.

"He was always so committed," said Walter. "He would get up early every morning to go to practice. You could just see he had a passion for diving."

And his parents, Chuck and Debbie, were always on hand to support his efforts.

"They were available for everything he did," said Walter "I don't think he could have done it without the love and support of his parents."

Diane Stablein, one of Colwill's former teachers at Tampa Prep, agreed.

"Becoming the best diver in the United States doesn't just happen," she said. "It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, hours, efforts and energy."

Even though diving was a major focus in his life, Colwill never let it interfere with academics, said Stablein. Despite being born with partial deafness, Colwill excelled at school, she said.

"He is the finest human being I've ever known," said Stablein.

Becky Eubanks, whose son, Barrett, attended Tampa Prep with Colwill, recalls watching Colwill dive as a seventh-grader in competitions against high school seniors.

"He was just a little thing," she said, "about 4 feet tall. But, oh, could he dive. By the time he was in ninth grade, he was the state diving champion."

The Eubanks family has closely followed Colwill's career, even attending the Olympic trials in Indianapolis in 2008.

"He had us on the edge of our seats during this last trial," said Eubanks. "We had the stats streaming on our ipads and, when we got the unofficial results, we started jumping up and down. We could tell that Chris was going to win."

After high school, Colwill attended the University of Georgia where he continued diving at the collegiate level. He graduated with a degree in speech communications in 2008.

These days he spend much of his time training. he said.

"I train every day, except Sunday," said Colwill. "I usually spend five hours in the water and another hour conditioning."

Chuck Burgess, executive director of the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center, said he was grateful Colwill was willing to take the time to stop by the center on Saturday.

"We're so excited for Chris and his family," said Burgess. "And we're proud to play a role in his success. BSAC is continuing to help kids reach all of their dreams and goals."

"I was really pleased that Chris had a chance to come out and see all the support he has here in Brandon," said his father, Chuck. "He doesn't really get to see the support he has around here."

But Chris Colwill said he knew Brandon was behind him during the Olympic trials. "I could hear you all the way to Seattle."

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