Striving for Perfection: Collegiate Diving Champion Heath Ogawa

Photo Courtesy: Ryan Coleman

By Kelsey Mitchell, Swimming World College Intern.

Many strive for greatness, but few reach heights as fantastic as Heath Ogawa at this past NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving National Championships. Currently a senior at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill., Ogawa’s victory drives his team into the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Ogawa was a major point contributor at the 2018 Midwest Conference Championships this past February, with wins on both the one and three meter boards. At the beginning of March, Ogawa moved on to the 2018 NCAA Division III Region 1 Diving Champions, placing first on both boards and qualifying him for NCAA Division III Championships. About three weeks later, Ogawa placed third on the one meter and first on the three meter, achieving his goal of becoming a national champion.

The Makings of a Champion: Moving to the US

2018 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships

Photo Courtesy: Ryan Coleman

Ogawa moved to the US from Japan in 2011, where he would start his diving career and become a national champion in the sport. But before Ogawa was a US Division III national diving champion, he was a young boy growing up in an unstable environment in Japan:

I moved to the US in March of 2011, after the earthquake hit Japan for two major reasons. One was to evacuate Japan. After the earthquake, the tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With radiation leaking everywhere, my mother wanted my brother and I to evacuate, so we left. Another reason was my mother believed that I would have better opportunities in the US.

Transition is difficult for most people; however, uprooting from your native culture to one thousands of miles across the globe poses its own unique difficulties. Despite his major successes down the road, Ogawa faced big challenges at first in both the new education system and language:

Everything was hard – I mean everything. Given my situation, even commuting to school was hard. Class assignments took me so much longer to complete because I had to constantly look up words I didn’t know. Making friends was not the easiest, but living away from my parents was definitely a major challenge.

Despite his new surroundings, Ogawa was quick to begin high school athletics. He started both diving and gymnastics as a freshman. “I grew up watching a lot of Jackie Chan action movies and remember being fascinated by all of his stunts. I think that’s why I was so attracted to gymnastics…. I remember my mother telling me I may as well join the diving team to get in shape for gymnastics. I agreed and joined the swim and dive team,” Ogawa says.

The New Season and New Goals

Event 27 - Men's 1 mtr Diving

Photo Courtesy: Eric Kelley

With the national title under his belt and the 2018-19 diving season in sight, Ogawa has been busy evaluating his past goals and setting new ones: “My goal has always been to win nationals…. Every day I trained to achieve that single goal, but what I didn’t realized is that I really restricted myself by creating a goal that has an end. Instead of making goals as a stepping stone for seeking perfection, I made it the destination.”

For the upcoming season, he aims to win both the one meter and three meter boards, improve as both a student and a person, and help lead and improve his team.

One such way Ogawa motivates himself is by watching those better than him:

It is very easy to get motivated. All I do is go to YouTube, type in ‘Olympic Diving,’ re-watch hours of diving and imagine myself diving like those Olympians. What is hard is to discipline yourself to keep on moving despite having motivation or not. Self motivation will only bring you so far. I think what you need is a clear purpose and a goal. Why are you doing what you are, and for whom, and for what purpose? What will feed your desire to get better? The hardest part of training is disciplining yourself – to keep on moving when your body is sore and you are mentally weak.

Event 27 - Men's 1 mtr Diving

Photo Courtesy: Eric Kelley

Looking Toward the Future

Ogawa’s favorite part of the college diving experience thus far has been spending time with his teammates and making “ridiculous memories.” He will graduate in May of 2019 with a major in finance. After graduation, Ogawa hopes to work in the finance field and pick up a new hobby.

Ogawa concludes with words of inspiration that guide his pursuits: “There is a quote I love by Brian Tracy. It goes, ‘Perfection is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends.” Though achieving perfection is nearly impossible in this life, Ogawa sets his sights to come as close as possible.

There’s no doubt that the swimming and diving world will see some big performances from Ogawa this coming season, and he will continue to make an impact beyond his years as a Forester.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Author: Kelsey Mitchell

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Las Vegas native Kelsey Mitchell is a rising junior and swimmer at Lake Forest College. She primarily swims mid-distance freestyle and is majoring in English.

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