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Swimming and Diving  . 

Sophie Verzyl is Making the Most of Her Time Away

by Brad Muller

South Carolina diver Sophie Verzyl is taking a year off from competing with the Gamecocks, but she is making the most of her time. Verzyl is training for the 2024 Olympics and recently won three bronze medals for Team USA at the World University Games in China.

“It was an amazing experience, and it was my first-ever senior international meet where I was representing the USA,” said Verzyl, an Honors College student whose three medals led Team USA across all sports at the World University Games. “It was very cool to meet all the athletes from different countries. My goal was to make the top three in all of my individual events, so I was definitely very happy with what I did.

“Wearing the Team USA uniform has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Now that I’m doing that, it means a lot to me. It’s pretty surreal. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had. Competing in the Olympics would mean the world to me.”

Sophie Verzyl
“It was a hard decision to take a year off because I love my coaches, and I love the team here.”
Sophie Verzyl  . 

Verzyl grew up in Columbia and competed for South Carolina the previous two seasons, earning Second Team All-SEC honors last year on the way to qualifying for NCAAs. Taking the gap year wasn’t an easy decision, but she felt like it was the best way to reach her goals.

“I started diving when I was eight years old, and I started doing it at the Blatt P.E. Center. So, I’ve been diving there my whole life,” Verzyl said. “I’m training around 40 hours per week right now in a small town called Arcadia, Indiana. The coach (John Wingfield) who runs the club team there has coached athletes in the Olympics a few times, and he had previously been the head coach for Team USA. They have the best and largest diving facility in the country there.

“It was a hard decision to take a year off because I love my coaches, and I love the team here. (South Carolina head diving coach) Mike Wright has been great and encouraged me to take this opportunity because he understands this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was important to get the volume of training hours that I’m going to get because you can’t do all that while you’re in school. The results you get out of this is the amount of work you put into the sport. Diving has taught me time management and discipline and has also given me by best friends.”

Training starts early in the morning each day with several hours at the dry land facility as well as several more hours in the pool, followed by weight training.

As Verzyl continues to train, she will have several more chances to compete on the international stage, including a meet in Sweden in October, as well as the U.S. Nationals in December and again in May, followed by Olympic Trials.

“The competition is really cutthroat, and it’s very hard,” Verzyl said. “Making the Olympic team can come down to the smallest number of points. It can be very close.”

Verzyl plans to be back at South Carolina in the fall of 2024 with two more years of eligibility with which to compete and earn her degree in supply chain and operations management from the Darla Moore School of Business.