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June 27, 2014

Finally healthy, Dunnichay climbing back toward Olympics

ANDERSON — Mary Beth Dunnichay had become convinced her celebrated diving career was not going to end on her terms.

Three shoulder surgeries robbed her of the chance to make a second U.S. Olympic team and affected her ability to compete in her first two seasons at Purdue. She'd won five national championships and eight medals in international competition on the 10-meter platform.

But there were doubts the 21-year-old's body ever would be sound enough to climb the tower again.

Until this summer, that is.

After two-and-a-half years of springboard competition, Dunnichay recently returned to her preferred discipline. And the results have Elwood's Olympian again dreaming of competing at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.

"It was way higher than I remember, and a little scarier," she said of getting back on the 10-meter platform. "But it's coming. My shoulder's good. I feel good. It's all in there, muscle memory."

Dunnichay hesitated before the first dive of her comeback, and Boilermakers coach Adam Soldati was at the edge of the tank when she emerged from the water.

"How are you?" he asked.

"It feels fine," she said, surprising even herself. "I don't feel it at all."

Pain was a constant companion dating back to at least 2011 when Dunnichay set a state finals record to become a champion on the springboard for Elwood High School.

That title came less than a year after she won her first individual medal in international competition with a second-place finish at the FINA World Junior Diving Championships, and she added a synchronized silver medal at the AT&T USA Diving Grand Prix alongside Anna James that summer.

Then the wheels began to come off. Dunnichay and James struggled to an 11th-place finish at the FINA World Championships as the latter's shoulder problems worsened.

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