A debilitating injury prompted Maysi Richards to change sports, a decision that paved the way for success and adventure.
The 13-year-old Keller girl switched from gymnastics to diving two years ago and is rapidly moving up in the national rankings for her age group. Earlier this month, Maysi traveled to Cuba to the Pan American Junior Diving Championships.
“It was amazing. I had so much fun, and it was beautiful there,” Maysi said. “The water was so great and I met people from Mexico, Venezuela and Canada.”
For almost all of the last 55 years, the United States has had a ban against travel to Cuba, but in recent years, the government has allowed Americans to go there for educational, religious or other specific purposes. Earlier this year, Congress rejected a proposal to totally remove the travel ban.
Maysi said that what stood out in her visit to Cuba was the abundance of older cars and buildings, along with vintage fashions.
She traveled there with a small American delegation of divers and coaches. Her mom, Lori Richards, was not able to make the trip but followed the competition on Twitter.
Maysi competed in platform diving and the three-meter springboard. Lori Richards could tell from a low diving score in the fifth of six dives from the platform that Maysi had a problem but was reassured to see a good score on a sixth dive.
Maysi hit her foot on the platform during that dive, something she had never done before. The foot was sore, but she still had to compete in the three-meter event. She put the earlier mistake out of her mind and did well, earning a silver medal.
She started diving two years ago after repeated stress on her growing bones caused an osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesion, a painful condition in her left elbow, a common injury for young athletes in gymnastics, baseball pitching and tennis.
After eight years in gymnastics it was hard to consider doing something different, but the injury is chronic, painful and requires surgery. She and her parents began looking for other sports and came across diving. She had two surgeries on her elbow, the most recent about a year ago.
She took to diving quickly and enjoys the sport.
“Everything’s fun. I think learning new dives is fun,” Maysi said. “I also have a competitive side. I’m a big competitor.”
Her coach, Jeff Bro with GC Divers, said Maysi has developed as a diver rapidly because of her extensive experience in gymnastics.
“She’s a great athlete, really dedicated and really focused. She knows what she wants,” Bro said.
What she wants in the future is to keep competing. She’s moving up an age group next year and hopes to make the USA diving team for the Junior Worlds Championship. Long term, she’d like to get a college scholarship and become an Olympian.
To allow for multiple hours of training each day, Maysi attends Grapevine-Colleyville district’s iUniversity Prep virtual school. Despite her busy schedule, she gets good grades. Her favorite subjects are math and science.
“Instead of working sports around school, I can do the opposite,” she said.