Serena Buchwald is now diving for the Universityof Pittsburgh in the NCAA
By SCOTT TAYLOR

By her own admission, Serena Buchwald was a late starter. It wasn’t until she was 11-years-old and some friends saw her diving off the dock at her parents’ cabin that the seed was planted.

 

 

“I was a gymnast, and there is this pier near my family’s cabin in Matlock,” she recalled. “I was doing flips and jumps off of it and there were a few instances where people would come up to my mum and suggest that I take up diving. I was about 11-years-old and, eventually, I went to a trail assessment and I loved it and have been hooked to the sport ever since.”
In a city that has produced its share of outstanding nationally-ranked divers, Buchwald could be the best of the bunch. Now, in her freshman season at the University of Pittsburgh, the 18-year-old graduate of Balmoral Hall, has taken her talents to the NCAA. So far, so good.
“So far, the overall experience has been great,” she said, during an interview from her dorm at Pitt. “The gear, the hype, the treatment staff available, are all fantastic. There have been some adjustments, such as competing almost every weekend. Diving down in the US is different than in Canada so there have been some adjustments to how I approach competitions and training. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed it and think I’m competing well with the other divers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
Buchwald earned her stripes diving for head coach Dallas Ludwick with Revolution Diving Club in Winnipeg. Last year, Buchwald earned herself an opportunity to compete in her first Olympic Trials, where she got a taste of Canada’s world-class talent. Although she’s skilled in each of diving’s three events, Ludwick believes Buchwald’s best comes out on the 10-metre platform.


“The difficulty and quality of Serena’s skills on 10-metre will give her an edge in terms of qualifying for the NCAA National Championships,” Ludwick said in a written statement announcing Buchwald’s commitment to Pittsburgh. “I know that moving to Pittsburgh and diving in the NCAA program is an exciting new life adventure that she is ready for.”
Buchwald comes by her diving successes honestly. Known as an extremely hard worker, she also has a solid base in other sports and that’s given her the skills and courage to grow and develop on the platform.
“Being a gymnast prior to diving definitely had its advantages,” she said. “I was already quite strong and flexible and had a feeling for flipping. But being a gymnast meant I also had a lot of bad habits to break in terms of technique. The technique between gymnastics and diving is very different and I know that can be a tough transition for some gymnasts. Luckily, I had a very good first coach who helped me break those habits right away.
“I had also played a lot of sports as a kid. I did track and hockey at school, was quite competitive in tennis and speedskating, but gymnastics was my main sport before I took up diving.”


Buchwald has also been fortunate to have some positive and influential people involved in her diving career. Without them, her success may not have come at all, or at least, might not have arrived as quickly as it did.
“There are a lot of influential people in my life,” she said. “Olympian Roseline Filion is a (now, former) diver I looked up to early on in my career. She was also known to be an extremely hard worker and even if she didn’t have the most natural talent, she worked harder than anyone else to become an Olympic medalist.
“And my old coach, Dallas Ludwick, shaped me into the athlete and person I am today and definitely had an influence in my career.”
Coach Ludwick, meanwhile, has nothing but praise for Buchwald, whom she says, “just loves the sport and always has fun.”
“She joined diving at age 11 and then moved to my group when she was 12,” said Ludwick, 37, who has been coaching for 20 years. “She was one of the youngest divers in our group and it was a pretty good group of athletes, including some highly-rated national champions and potential Olympians. But she was never out of place. She’s just such a hard-worker. I saw something in her at a very young age. She had immeasurable talent but she also worked so very hard at improving and there is no better combination than that.”


Now that Serena is out of her hometown and diving with a big time NCAA program like the Pitt Panthers, life is much different.
“College diving is a bit different than what I did at home. There are specific NCAA rules that need to be followed, such as that we have to train 20 hours or less a week,” Buchwald explained. “We always do roughly an hour of dryland (gymnastics-type skills and conditioning) a day, then at least two hours of water training (skills and progressions on top of our competition dives) and an hour of weight lifting all in one training day.
“Not only does Pitt have a great diving coach, but this is also one of the top public universities in America. I’ve really enjoyed my classes and my teammates make the hard training and lengthy competition season so much fun.”
Some of it will have to be fun. Especially with the study load she’s taken on this year.
“I plan on majoring in neuroscience,” she said, matter-of-factly. “They have a really great program here at Pitt. I’m really interested in cognitive repair and development so if I got to do research in that area that would be a dream. Med school is definitely in the back of my mind, and majoring in neuroscience gives me all the prerequisites I need to apply and write the MCAT should I choose to.”
In the meantime, Buchwald has a number of upcoming meets for which to prepare and with that heavy school load plus all the practice time, it’s a good thing she loves what she does.
“Yeah, I love the adrenaline rush that you get after doing a new dive or a harder dive,” she said. “The best feeling in the world is hitting the water and knowing that you nailed the dive.”