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U.S. Diving Team Is Clouded By Controversy

June 24, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ After making the U.S. Olympic diving team, David Pichler dove right into controversy.

At a news conference following the competition, Pichler said he has ``gone through constant problems from Ron O’Brien and his family″ since leaving the Olympic coach’s training program in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in September.

``Since that time I have been harassed, I have been assaulted, I have been pushed, my family has been harassed ...,″ Pichler said. ``It’s been sheer hell on a regular basis. It’s just something that I wish no athlete would ever have to go through.″

While Pichler said he left because the situation was affecting the program’s other divers, O’Brien’s son, Tim, who is assistant coach of his father’s team, said Pichler was dismissed because of ``disruptive type of behavior.″

Now, the senior O’Brien and Pichler will be together at the Atlanta Olympics.

Pilcher, who recently resumed training with Ohio State coach Vince Panzano, finished second Sunday in the 10-meter platform at the U.S. Olympic trials, scoring 1140.48 points. Patrick Jeffrey, who finished 12th in the event at the Seoul Olympics eight years ago and failed to make the team in 1992, finished first with 1,145.71 points.

The meet to select the nation’s representatives in diving at Atlanta next month ended at the Indiana University Natatorium with Jeffrey becoming the fourth former Olympian to make the squad. He joined 1992 Olympic springboard gold medalist Mark Lenzi, 1992 women’s platform bronze medalist Mary Ellen Clark and Scott Donie, who won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics off the platform and will compete on the springboard this year.

Joining Pilcher as first-time Olympians are Melisa Moses and Jenny Keim, springboard; and Becky Ruehl, platform.

``This could be the best overall team at the Olympics,″ said Kongzheng Li, a four-time Olympian for China who was recently named head coach at the University of Minnesota and will be Jeffrey’s coach in Atlanta. ``The Chinese will be strong and win medals. The team picked here is deep. Any of its members can win an Olympic medal if they have a good day.

Ron O’Brien, named Sunday as a U.S. Olympic team coach for the eighth time, agreed.

``I think it’s a good team. I don’t think if we held the trials three more times we could get a stronger team,″ he said. ``I like the blend of experience and potential. We’ve got three returning medalists. The international people (judges) will know these people.

``They’ll give us a lot of credibility, and they’ll give us a lot of leadership. ... I’d say we could win four medals, one in each event. I think it will be very hard to get two medals in one event. What color it is depends on the nature of the competition.″

O’Brien would not comment on the circumstances of Pichler leaving his program.

``I feel that I have not done anything to affect Dave Pichler in any way,″ the coach said. ``I haven’t really been around him since February except at competitions, so I’m not really sure what he’s alluding to.″

O’Brien said he and Pichler no longer talk, at Pichler’s request.

Pichler filed a formal complaint against O’Brien with U.S. Diving. Steve McFarland, president of the governing body, investigated the allegations and a confidential report was presented to U.S. Diving’s 21-member board of directors about a week ago.

``As a result, the board has voted to take no action against coach Ron O’Brien,″ U.S. Diving spokesman David Shatkowski said.

``It basically is a personal matter between coach O’Brien and David Pichler. Now they’re both members of the Olympic team,″ he said.

Pichler also accused Tim O’Brien of assaulting his friend, Steve Guiffre, on an airplane after the U.S. national championships in April.

Tim O’Brien and Guiffre exchanged words as the airplane sat on the tarmac at the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport on April 22.

No one was arrested, although Tim O’Brien filed an incident report with police and obtained a restraining order that prevents Guiffre from coming within 50 feet of any member of the O’Brien family.

``I was in row 36 and his companion was in first class, and traveled 32 rows to the back of the plane to within an inch of my nose and made a statement,″ Tim O’Brien said.

Pichler accused him of pushing Guiffre. Responded Tim O’Brien, ``I asked him (Guiffre) to get out of my face. I pushed him away from me.″

Guiffre showed up at the meet in Indianapolis and was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery Thursday night, according to Marion County Jail records.

The charges resulted when Guiffre became involved with police officers who were trying to get him to leave the natatorium, police records show.

Guiffre was taken to jail and released Friday after a $100 cash bond was posted.

On Sunday, a rare perfect performance was turned in by 16-year-old Troy Dumais. However, it still was not enough to get him a berth on the U.S. team.

Dumais got 10s from all seven judges for his back 3 1/2-somersault dive off the platform in Sunday’s finals. The dive carries a 3.3 degree of difficulty and was worth 99 points to the high school junior from Ventura, Calif. It helped him finish the competition with 1,101.30 points.

But, his score was only good enough for third place and only the two top finishers qualify for the Olympics.

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