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Olympian Julia Vincent reveals how being a Gamecock enhances her diving

June 13, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Julia Vincent’s summer is a little different from most rising juniors at the University of South Carolina. She’s training for the 2016 Summer Olympics, where she will represent South Africa in the 3-Meter Dive after securing a spot on her home country’s team during their Olympic trials in April.

On a typical day, Vincent heads to USC’s Solomon Blatt Physical Education Center for a dryland training and trampoline workout first thing in the morning. Then she’ll go to her epidemiology class before returning to the Carolina Natatorium (housed in Blatt) for 2.5 hours of diving practice followed by a strength training workout. She will do a variation of this routine five days a week until she leaves for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in early August.

There’s a uniqueness about U.S. collegiate athletics as it allows me to focus on my academics while being very involved in my sport.

-Julia Vincent, Public Health Student

Vincent’s passion for diving cropped up in parallel with her interest in public health while growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city. Her mother, who remains Vincent’s greatest influence and mentor, worked as a nurse and then a medical sales representative—sparking her daughter’s interest in health professions. During her freshman year in high school, Vincent also received her first introduction to diving, which she began to pursue competitively by the end of that same year.

Although Vincent began her undergraduate studies in South Africa, her end game was always to study and train in the United States. “There’s a uniqueness about U.S. collegiate athletics as it allows me to focus on my academics while being very involved in my sport,” she explains. “There is a certain connectedness between the two that one might not see or experience in many other countries.”

Public health allows me to help a large percentage of people regardless of the career path I choose, and there are so many opportunities to make a difference.

-Julia Vincent, Public Health Student

When Vincent came to USC for an on-campus visit, she quickly knew she had found her match. “I fell in love with the school within the first two days and left my visit knowing that South Carolina was the place for me,” she says. “Everyone was so friendly, and I felt like the team that I would be a part of could become my family. Being so far away from home made that an incredibly important factor for me.”

Choosing public health as her major was an easy decision as well. “I have always had an interest in helping people on a holistic level,” Vincent says. “Public health allows me to help a large percentage of people regardless of the career path I choose, and there are so many opportunities to make a difference.”

She’s already standing out to her professors and advisors, whom she relies on for advice both inside and outside the classroom. “Julia is an amazing young woman who is very humble about all that she has accomplished, and I am really proud to be her advisor,” says Clinical Assistant Professor Kara Montgomery.

Competing at the Olympics has always been the goal for me, just like it is for so many other athletes. It is what I have been working my whole life for, so my participation in the Olympics means more to me than I can even express.

-Julia Vincent, Public Health Student

Her program of study also fits well with her diving career. Vincent is able to apply what she learns from her coursework (e.g., injury prevention, healthy eating, etc.) to her sport. And vice versa. When Vincent and her team are not practicing and competing, they volunteer at local community events, such as the Tunnels to Towers Run and Relay for Life. On her own, Vincent helps feed the homeless at Transitions.

At the moment, however, her focus remains centered on preparing for the Olympics. “It is always an honor to represent my country at any meet, but representing my country at the biggest and most influential sporting stage in the world takes it to a whole new level for me,” says Vincent. “Competing at the Olympics has always been the goal for me, just like it is for so many other athletes. It is what I have been working my whole life for, so my participation in the Olympics means more to me than I can even express. It is a surreal feeling to know that my dream is becoming a reality everyday as we get closer to the Olympics.”

The University of South Carolina has become my home away from home. And I am very thankful for the opportunity I have been given to attend such a wonderful school with such amazing people.

-Julia Vincent, Public Health Student

She credits Todd Sherritt, who has just completed his 23rd season as the head diving coach for USC, for being the greatest influence in her preparation for the biggest competition of her life. “He is an incredibly talented coach, and he has so much to offer in the diving world,” Vincent says. “My diving took off when I started working with him because he was able to train me perfectly physically and, more importantly, mentally.”

As Vincent enters the homestretch of her Olympic training, she emphasizes her gratitude not only for her athletic and academic programs’ support in preparing her for the world stage in August but also for the larger role that being a Gamecock has played during this chapter of her life. “The University of South Carolina has become my home away from home,” she says. “And I am very thankful for the opportunity I have been given to attend such a wonderful school with such amazing people.”