Former ASU diver hopes to make splash for Team Italy

RIO DE JANEIRO — Italian diver Mikis Benedetti’s road to Rio started in Rome.

Benedetti lived in the Italian capital from birth until he arrived at Arizona State in 2005.

Only able to compete for two seasons for the Sun Devils because of NCAA restrictions – he applied to college two years after graduating from high school, thus losing his first year of eligibility – he made the most out of his time at ASU, earning Pac-10 Diver of the Year honors in 2008.

“I really wanted to get out of Rome at that time in my life and it was the best choice I made,” said Benedetti, who graduated from ASU in 2010 with a degree in business. “I loved my time there and I wanted to stay there as much as possible to use my visa as much as possible.”

Benedetti will compete in the men’s 3-meter springboard on Monday. He is one of three Sun Devil divers competing in the 2016 Summer Games, along with Sam Dorman and Constantin Blaha. Dorman won a silver medal for Team USA in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard Wednesday. Benedetti will compete against Blaha, who is diving for Austria, on Monday.

Benedetti perfected his trade, making it to the world’s biggest sporting event with the help of Mark Bradshaw, his coach at ASU who competed in the same event as him in the 1988 Olympics. Bradshaw finished fifth in the Games in Seoul, South Korea.

“I improved a lot thanks to Coach Bradshaw,” Benedetti said during an interview after a training session in Rio. “I think the big difference is having an Olympian as a coach, because Bradshaw went to the 1988 games, and he knows what you need to get to this point, to get to those five rings.”

Bradshaw is proud of how far Benedetti has come and is looking forward to watching him compete.

“[Benedetti] was always a gifted diver at all levels, which is very rare, so collegiately for us he was very good,” Bradshaw said. “He scored us a lot of points.”

After graduating from ASU, Benedetti moved back to Rome and had his mind set on the Olympics. He had competed in the European Championship, World Championship and the World Cup, so the Olympics was the only international event missing in his diving career.

“I missed [the Olympics] both in 2004 and 2008, and that was my last chance,” Benedetti said. “I told myself in 2010, when I got back home, that it was either London or I would’ve quit. I [ended up making] it to London and I made it to Rio, so it was a great ride.”

Benedetti missed the 3-meter springboard semifinals by three points at the 2012 London Games. He is now more experienced and ready for the competition this time around in Rio.

“I need to stay relaxed on the board during the event,” Benedetti said. “I don’t want to think about the result at the end, I just want to enjoy the ride.”

Benedetti is competing on Monday Aug. 15 at 11:15 a.m. Arizona time.