Puerto Rican diver is making waves at UA
For a diver like Rafael Quintero, transitions are everything.
Starting from a standstill, he propels himself off of a platform, flipping and spinning with dizzying speed before entering the water 10 meters below, all while exhibiting precise control of his body.
Transitioning from air to water, though, is routine for Quintero, who has seen his share of changes. Two years ago, the UA diver left his home on the island of Puerto Rico for the sun-scorched desert of Southern Arizona.
“It’s a big change,” he said. “You can’t go to the beach here, which I miss a lot.”
Mark Armao/The Daily Wildcat Rafael Quintero left his home country of Puerto Rico to pursue a diving career at the UA. The sophomore was named the Pac-12 Diver of the Month in January.
The Tucson transplant has adapted well otherwise. As a diver for the UA, Quintero has steadily improved during his first two seasons as a Wildcat. After earning multiple first-place finishes in January, the sophomore was named Pac-12 Diver of the Month.
Despite his success in the pool, Quintero is still learning the art of diving, which was not his first sport.
He began training as a gymnast at the age of 5, but by 12, Quintero had grown tired of the sport. Because the skills were easily transferable to diving, Quintero’s father arranged for him to begin practicing with the University of Puerto Rico diving club team. Eight months later, Quintero competed in the Pan American Junior Diving Championships held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Quintero, who often goes by his nickname “Rafa,” quickly gained recognition in the world of American collegiate diving. At the age of 18, he received a scholarship to compete for the UA.
“Rafa is a very talented diver,” said head diving coach Omar Ojeda. “There are a few technical details we need to improve on, but he is a good guy to work with.”
Despite his relentless practice schedule, Quintero still finds time to devote to his studies; as a mechanical engineering major, his academics can prove stressful. And while diving provides a sanctuary from homework, Quintero said that math still creeps in from time to time.
“I took physics last semester, and I saw a lot of things that could apply to diving,” he said. “Center of inertia, speed, acceleration — all that.”
When he’s on the platform, though, he said fluid mechanics are the last thing on his mind.
“I’m just focusing on putting the dive down,” he said.
Quintero will compete in the Pac-12 Conference championships beginning on Feb. 26 and will likely qualify for the NCAA Championships in March. His goals for nationals are to earn a top-four spot in both the 3-meter and platform events, he said. As for his ultimate diving goal, Quintero said he hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Despite the constant change, the incredible pressure and the torturous chill of jumping into a pool at 8 a.m. in the dead of winter, Rafa said that it’s his competitive edge that keeps him motivated.
“I like to win,” he said. “If diving is what allows me to win right now and feel better, I’m going to keep doing it.”
—Follow Mark Armao @MarkArmao