CARLSBAD — 10-year-old Logan Castaneda isn’t a typical fifth-grader.
On the first day of competitive diving practice at Alga Norte Aquatic Center, the young Carlsbad resident told coaches Adam Bellistri and Don Cashmore his goal was to become an Olympic diver.
Three years later, Logan will take a significant step toward achieving that goal by competing at the 2021 USA Diving Junior National Championships from July 28 to Aug. 3 at Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“In all the years I’ve been coaching, I’ve never heard anyone mention the Olympics on the first day,” said Cashmore, head dive coach at Carlsbad High School and Dive San Diego. “And Logan’s the only one we’ve had so far that has the grit and determination to do it. Because it is really a long road to get there.”
After two years of private lessons, Logan joined the Dive San Diego competitive diving team earlier this year under the careful direction of Bellistri, a former coach at Scorpion Diving Club.
Logan practices six days per week (three days in the pool and three days of dryland practices on a trampoline in Santee).
And that’s when his biggest fan, mother Cindy Castaneda, noticed a difference in her son’s ability.
“Once he started doing dryland practice in January, his progress really took off,” Cindy said.
Within four months, Bellistri moved Logan onto the club’s Junior Olympic team.
Logan’s commitment to the sport is evident in his growing repertoire of increasingly complex dives, such as a front double (two full somersaults, landing feet first) and a front flip full twist (forward somersault followed by a full twist or 360-degree spin).
Most recently, Logan successfully completed a much more difficult technique — a front 2.5 (two-and-a-half somersaults, landing headfirst).
“It’s extremely rare for someone his age to go past a front double,” Cashmore said. “We don’t have a lot of kids that either have the ability or desire. It’s a harder dive and a little scary.”
But learning new dives didn’t always come easy for the Carillo Elementary School student.
“(In the beginning), the hardest part was just jumping off and actually doing it,” Logan said. “My coaches would tell me to do some dives that I thought were really scary so I would just back out.”
When approaching the diving board, Logan keeps himself focused and motivated through positive affirmations, such as, “Do it for your family and friends” and “Try your best.”
Logan’s hard work, positive attitude and confidence on the diving board have blown his competition out of the water.
In May, Logan finished third in both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events at the USA Diving Junior Region 8 Championships in Minneapolis, advancing to the Junior Zone D Championships at Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center in Wisconsin, where he took second place in both categories.
At Zone D, Logan got to meet another talented young diver — 14-year-old Joshua Hedberg, who scored a “perfect 10″ and finished fourth in the men’s platform at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials.
Hedberg is currently fourth in line to represent Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It was really good for Logan because he could see that at his age, he really doesn’t have that far to go to match what Joshua has done,” Cashmore said. “So Olympic Trials are not out of reason if he keeps making progress and keeps his motivation and desire strong.”
And Logan’s hot streak continued this past weekend after winning gold medals in both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events at this year’s California State Games hosted at Alga Norte Aquatic Center.
Logan is also practicing 5-meter (16 ft.) platform dives, jumping from a tall stationary tower without a running start or spring-loaded leap. But according to his coaches and family, Logan approaches new challenges with a cool-headed focus and steely determination.
“I feel like I’m more nervous and more excited for him when he competes,” Cindy Castaneda said. “It’s hard for me to sleep and everything.”
In addition to requiring focus, discipline, intense physical training and lots of practice, competitive diving is also a craft that often yields picturesque results — all of which Logan truly enjoys.
“Once you jump off that board, you’re painting pictures in the sky for us to watch,” Cashmore said. “I’ve never seen (Logan) come out of the water after a dive without a smile on his face.”