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Wantagh native headed to Tokyo Olympics this month

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A springboard diver who’s originally from Wantagh will compete in the Tokyo Olympics this month. Andrew Capobianco, 21, earned a spot on Team USA last month when he and his partner in three-meter synchronized diving, Michael Hixon, won the event at the Olympic trials at the Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.

He secured a spot in a second event in Tokyo by finishing second in the individual three-meter competition. “Now it’s kind of sunk in,” Capobianco said last week, “and I’m just really excited for the experience.”

He said he was grateful to be with his family at the trials. “I know they’ve put so much into this dream of mine,” he said, “so we all had a great celebration afterward, and we were able to look back at all the great times that we’ve had leading up to this point, and all the people that have helped me get here.”

Capobianco’s father, Michael Capobianco, said that he and Andrew’s mother, Darlene, were beaming with pride. “We were just going to be happy with him being an Olympian as a synchro diver,” Michael said. “But for him to put on the show he did was pretty crazy, and now he gets to represent the country twice.”

It is an especially emotional time for Darlene, because Andrew, his twin brother, Matthew, and their eldest brother, Christian were all in-vitro, “miracle” babies. “I thought I would never have children,” Darlene said. “To be able to see all three of my boys shine the way they do — there’s a reason why God gave us these three beautiful souls.”

Andrew, a student at I.U., spent his first 13 years in Wantagh. In 2012, he won his first Nassau County diving championship as a seventh-grader. “He’s a Long Island native, and he’s proud that he grew up in Wantagh,” his father said.

At I.U., Andrew practices daily from 8 to 11 a.m. and again from 2 to 4 p.m. He has a 30-minute preworkout treatment before each session to prepare his body, and a 30-minute cooldown afterward. He also does an hour of weight training twice a week.

He started diving around age 9 after his parents bought a trampoline for their backyard in Wantagh. “From a very early time, I’d be in the house working     . . . and Andrew would come in and say, ‘Hey, I learned a new trick on the trampoline!’” Michael recalled. “He’d show me one twist, then come back half an hour later and say, ‘Dad, I learned another!’”

Toward the end of 2009, Andrew started competing in gymnastics. He worked closely with Kieran Krowl, of B K Gymnastic Center in West Babylon, and went on to win the men’s floor exercise at the 2013 U.S. Gymnastic Championships.

As a fifth-grader, Michael recalled, his son went to the Newbridge Park Pool in Bellmore with his graduating class. As Michael remembers it, a lifeguard recommended that Andrew join the county park pool league. He did, and he turned out to be a champion in that league.

By the end of summer 2010, Andrew started competing with the Long Island Divers, who trained at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow. He credited coach George Taylor III for his success. “I couldn’t have done any of this without him,” Andrew said. “He really provided such a strong foundation for me, and I’m really grateful for him.”

Andrew moved to North Carolina with his family and graduated from Holly Springs High School in 2017. At I.U., he is a seven-time All-American and a two-time Big Ten Diver of the Year. He first paired with Hixon, an I.U. graduate who’s now doing post-graduate work at the University of Michigan, in 2018.

Capobianco said it has been difficult to balance his social life and his training. “One thing that I’ve definitely learned through this journey is that balance is key,” he said. “Obviously I’m still a student, so balancing school, diving and a social life has definitely been hard, but it’s really important to me and my mental health.”

The U.S. diving team will leave for Tokyo on July 18. Capobianco and Hixon will compete in three-meter synchronized diving on July 28, and he will dive in the individual event on Aug. 3.

Michael said his son is not only a talented diver, but also an “incredible” human being. “As a parent, I don’t care if Andrew becomes the best diver that ever lived,” he said. “God willing, maybe he will. But as good a diver as Andrew is, he has done so many things in his life so far . . . he is a much better person than he is a diver. If you look at him and say, ‘Wow, he’s an Olympic diver,’ you should know that he is a world-class person.”