ST. PETERS, Mo. -- Troy Dumais knew he didn't need to win to clinch another spot on the U.S. Olympic diving team.
It didn't matter.
Dumais, using a more difficult program than any of his rivals, won 3-meter springboard at the trials Friday night, clinching a spot that he already had earned with a synchronized victory.
Dumais struggled on his first two dives, but a pep talk from his coach, Ken Armstrong, helped turn things around. The diver finished with his highest score of the night, earning a row of 8.5s and 9.0s
for a reverse pike 2½ somersault with 1½ twists.
"I started out flat. I don't know why," Dumais said. "I pulled Kenny aside and said, 'This isn't working.' He didn't lay into me, but he said, 'This doesn't matter. You've already made the team. But you're better than this.' I took it to heart."
Armstrong told Dumais to do more jumping around between dives, which helped get his emotions under control.
"I didn't want to elevate my heart rate," said Dumais, a 24-year-old native of Ventura, Calif. "But he's the coach. He knows best. I did that on my last four dives and turned it around."
The winner totaled 1,151.37 points, while the second spot on the Olympic team went to Dumais' training partner, Justin Wilcock of Smithfield, Utah. He earned his first Olympic berth when Phillip
Jones faltered, finishing with 1,117.38 points.
Jones, who was second after the preliminaries, slipped to third with 1,073.13 -- missing out on Athens.
"It's something I've dreamed about for so long," Wilcock said. "I'm still in a bit of shock."
USA Diving went with a new selection format this year, picking the synchro teams first. Because of a limited number of berths in Athens, the top two divers in each individual event are not necessarily guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team as in previous years.
Dumais knew he was getting one of the two springboard positions because of his win in 3-meter synchro, where he teamed up with older brother Justin.
Still, it was clear that Troy Dumais had no intention of backing into the Olympics.
"This was a stepping stone," he said. "If I can't do it here, I won't feel like I can do the next step. I would feel like I'm falling back."
Wilcock actually moved into the lead after the third of six rounds, but Dumais' set of dives had a higher degree of difficulty than the other contenders.
He finished up with his two most difficult moves, both rated at 3.5, while Wilcock and Jones each attempted only one dive of that level. When Dumais did them both well -- twisting and turning
through the air, causing barely a ripple as he sliced through the water -- the outcome was assured.
"When another diver steps up to the plate, it elevates the contest," he said. "I had to battle back."
Now, it's on to Athens.
Dumais will prepare at his training base in Texas, honing an even more difficult series of dives that he hopes will be good enough to knock off the powerful Chinese team. The American men failed to win a medal in Sydney four years ago.
Dumais was part of that team, finishing sixth on the 3-meter board and fourth -- one spot away from a medal -- in synchro springboard.
"I don't care how good this feels," he said. "We're going back to do the same things we've been doing for the last two years, the things that got me in this position. This is not the contest I want."
Still, Dumais figured he owed himself a little reward for all the hard work. The trials are being held in suburban St. Louis, not far from a casino that sits along the Missouri River.
"It's my night to let loose," he said. "Call the casino. I'm losing some money tonight."