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Former Olympic diving champion Mark Lenzi‬ dies

Olympic diving champion Mark Lenzi died Monday after spending two weeks in critical condition in a Greenville, N.C. hospital. He was 43.

Lenzi, a 1986 Stafford High School graduate, won the 1992 gold medal on the 3-meter board. After a brief retirement, he returned to win a bronze in the same event at the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Lenzi was hospitalized two weeks ago at Vidant Medical Center after suffering fainting spells. His mother, Ellie, said his blood pressure fell to 78/48.

Lenzi, a high school wrestler, became enamored of diving after watching on television as Greg Louganis won the 1984 Olympic title. He joined a Northern Virginia diving team and earned a scholarship to Indiana University, where he became a two-time NCAA champion (1989, 1990).

“USA Diving is truly saddened by the passing of Olympic champion Mark Lenzi. As an Olympic gold and bronze medalist, Mark was one of our country’s greatest divers, and he will be missed tremendously. On behalf of USA Diving and the entire diving community, I extend my deepest condolences to Mark’s family and friends,” said USA Diving Chairman Bob Rydze.

Memories of Mark Lenzi

Olympic champion swimmer Jeff Rouse

“His career paralleled mine. He was the essence of the Cinderella story, so to speak. He really shouldn’t  have accomplished what he did—especially in a sport like diving, where they start so young.  It says a lot for how talented he was and how hard he worked.

“It’s sad, it’s tragic that he didn’t have a chance to give back to younger divers the way he wanted to.”

Former Olympic teammate Scott Donie: 

“The diving world has never seen anything like him, and probably never will. He came from out of nowhere, and in three years, he was World Cup champion. That’s unheard of. And within six years, he won the Olympics. It was unbelievable.

“He had unbelievable physical ability, but it was nothing compared to his determination. If you’d tell him that something wasn’t possible, he just wouldn’t listen. He didn’t care.”

 

Hobie Billingsley, Lenzi’s coach at Indiana University and in his 1996 Olympic comeback:

“He knew how to compete. He didn’t show a thing in practice, but when the lights came on, he was unbelievable. The tougher the competition, the better he would dive.”

Lenzi’s funeral and viewing will be at Wilkerson Funeral Home Tuesday night only ,April 10, from 6-8 p.m. The address is 2100 5th St. Greenville, N.C. 27836

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