Rio 2016 silver medalist Steele Johnson made the difficult decision Tuesday to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials due to a recurring overuse injury on his right foot
Johnson said the residual issues from two failed surgeries on his foot are only getting worse day by day. Making the decision to pull out of Olympic Trials was in the back of his and his coach’s minds.
“I was hoping to push through this meet and push through to the Olympics,” Johnson said, “but unfortunately the pain I was feeling all week and the training and especially in the competition last night was just too much to really be worth it and continue.”
The risk of his foot completely giving out from upcoming months of training and competitions before the games forced Johnson to switch mindsets and prioritize his health instead. Making his final decision after the semifinal round of his first event, Johnson said it got to the point where he did his last dive and knew.
“At some point you’ve gotta make the wise decision to take a step back and focus on your health more than Olympic glory,” Johnson said.
When four-time Olympic medalist David Boudia heard his synchro partner would not be continuing to Tokyo, he supported Johnson’s choice. The two achieved silver in the synchronized 10m platform event in Rio and were scheduled to compete in the final round of the synchronized 3m springboard event later this week. Johnson explained the two share the same perspective on life and felt relieved to know Boudia supported his choice to withdraw.
“There’s so much more beyond this sport. There’s so much more beyond the Olympics,” Johnson said “We’ve had an amazing Olympic experience together and now he knows that he’s got his number one fan cheering him on in the individual [competition].”
While Johnson’s main focus is the health of his foot, he still remains hopeful that this is not the end of his Olympic diving career.
“I hope this isn't the end. Me coming back to the sport is one hundred percent gonna be based on whether or not this next surgery works, and my foot can recover properly,” Johnson said. “But if it doesn't for some reason, I can walk away from this sport knowing that I achieved more than all of my goals.”