Sunday, June 25, 2000

Ruehl already looking forward

No Olympics, but no retirement

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — In competition, Becky Ruehl always reads books between dives. This weekend the subject matter seemed herself. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 offered a parallel to the rust Ruehl couldn't shake at the Olympic Trials.

        “It's funny, because if I had enough confidence, my dives would be better,” she said. “But if my dives would be better, I'd have more confidence.

        “I just need more time.”

        As the 22-year-old from Lakeside Park, Ky., failed in her bid for a repeat Olympic trip, the silver lining was in talk of tomorrow. Her seventh-place finish in the 10-meter platform event Saturday was to be a foothold for future forays rather than a farewell.

        “Her continuing (in diving) makes sense, because she's got her head on straight,” said her Cincinnati Stingrays coach, Charlie Casuto. “It's not like she would be diving four years without doing anything else.”

        Ruehl graduated this month from the University of Cincinnati and already has begun work at a graphic design firm, but she decided this spring not to retire after these Trials. Though two injuries kept her from competing on 10-meter for nearly three years, she remains encouraged by the progress she has made since returning in January.

        “I would be disappointed if this was the best I dived,” Ruehl said. “But I know I can do better. That's the most hopeful thing.”

        Ruehl dove better in the finals Saturday than she had in preliminaries Friday, climbing three spots in the final five rounds to finish with 746.64 points. Laura Wilkinson of Spring, Texas, won the event with 869.79 points, and runner-up Sara Reiling of St. Paul, Minn., claimed the other Olympic spot with 830.85 points.

        Ruehl ruled this event four years ago, winning her fourth national championship and finishing fourth at the Atlanta Olympics. The travails since might end others' careers, but to know Ruehl is to know a perpetually sunny disposition.

        When she and Casuto drove to King County Aquatic Center on Saturday morning, they already were plotting new dives to work on for Summer Nationals late next month in Mission Viejo, Calif.

        “It was exciting, talking about the possibilities,” Ruehl said. “This was not an end-all, be-all. I didn't even know if I'd be healthy for this meet, so I'm glad just to be here and keep improving.”

        It was a bittersweet week for the Stingrays.

        Ruehl was hamstrung by her injury-related layoff. Angie Trostel, a 23-year-old from Oxford, did well to place seventh on the 3-meter springboard before tearfully announcing her retirement. Kim Powers, a 20-year-old from Crestview Hills, Ky., somewhat broke out of a year-long slump but failed to qualify for finals on either 3- or 10-meter. Nicci Fusaro, an 18-year-old Anderson High grad, made a name for herself by placing 10th on 3-meter.

        “Out of all of them, Nicci had the best meet,” Casuto said. “It was hard to imagine her diving any better right now.

        “Angie did a good, solid job. And Kim is a lot closer to being good than her places would appear. She'll have a good shot at outdoor nationals.”


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