Competitive diving takes grit and determination. In the case of RIT dive coach Cliff Devries, that’s especially true.
“I just want to make it up the ladder safe, so I’m just making sure my hands and my feet are in the right spot,” Devries said Tuesday before his big dive.
Devries, once an Olympic diving hopeful, is paralyzed.
Surgery for spinal cord cancer 20 years ago left him unable to use his body from the neck down.
Devries said then, his mind was on simply surviving.
“I didn’t have a lot of hope of doing anything,” Devries said. “Even being in a wheelchair was a big step for me.”
Devries didn’t give up, though. Not only did he get back on his feet soon after, but he decided it was time to dive again.
And as a present to himself, he decided he was going to complete one dive on his birthday.
Devries said that was 15 years ago.
Tuesday, he took to the diving board at the Gordon Field House pool to complete one dive on his birthday.
His students waded in the pool as he dove in, waiting to help him.
Last year, his dive went viral and racked up over 16 million views in a short time.
This year he outdid himself though with not just one, but two dives. One was a back dive.
Devries said as for next year, he’ll be back to celebrate his birthday; the only place he’d ever want to be with the people he loves the most.
“I don’t know if I’ll get that back dive in again, but I’ll definitely be diving again,” Devries said while laughing.