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After wrapping up her eligibility on the LSU Swim and Dive Team, Lizzie is returning to Baton Rouge to pursue a Masters of Arts in Liberal Arts. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Cui)

Science Communication Is My Springboard

It is July 31, 3 p.m., Japanese Standard Time at the Tokyo Aquatics Center.

I should have been there.

My journey to my second Olympic Games started as soon as the 2016 Games concluded, and this time I had a deeper sense of assurance and confidence. The 2016 Games were something from a dream, in fact, a dream from a 10-year-old Lizzie Cui. It was my 19th birthday when I represented my home country of New Zealand in the women’s three-meter springboard event in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, making history as the first New Zealander to compete in the Games for springboard diving since 1992.

Lizzie poses during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 5, 2016. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Cui)

I was a kid in 2016, taking in all the sensations with a wondrous curiosity. Walking in the opening ceremony is a highlight I look back on with the corners of my mouth turned up. The vibrant colors of each country's flags perched high above as I walked with my head held high in a sea of black and silver. I loved walking with Team New Zealand, there’s something about representing a small country on the world stage that ignites a different type of fire within.

The competition day was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was my birthday and my birthday wishes for the past 12 years were coming true. I finally got to call myself an Olympian. The truth is however, I never thought I’d make the 2016 Olympic Games, my sights were always on the 2020 Games in Tokyo. The 2016 Games were a blessing I never saw coming.


The journey to my second Olympic Games looks much different than the first time around. Instead of riding on luck and talent, I had to work harder and smarter. I was no longer in high school with little responsibilities. This time around I was faced with the full course load of a chemistry student, whilst balancing a 20-hour a week training load, and traveling out of the state and across the world for competitions representing Lousiana State University (LSU) and New Zealand. One of my favorite aspects of being an athlete is how I’ve travelled to countries such as Australia, Russia, Canada, China, Mexico, and Malaysia. I haven’t been to Spain yet but it is on my bucket list to compete at the amazing outdoor facility in Barcelona. My time management skills had to brush up quickly and Google calendar became a good friend of mine.

My day typically started with the abrupt sound of my alarm at 4:50 am and then another at 5:00 am. I would roll out of bed, reciting “you got this,” in my head to contradict the weight of my eyelids. On the way out the door, I would grab a piece of bread and peanut butter and make my way to practice. Three days a week my mornings consisted of weights training and two mornings of the week I’d be in the water. These practices lasted around an hour to an hour and a half, to allow time for me to make my 8:30 am class. A lot of my college life I had back to back classes from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. As soon as my last class would end, I’d scurry to the dining hall to grab a quick bite to eat before returning to the pool at 1:30 pm. Practice was split between what we call dryland, which consists of a series of exercises and technical skills designed to enhance our abilities in the pool, and water practice where we repeat repetitions of our dives. After practice at around 4:30 pm, I would eat dinner whilst simultaneously checking my emails and reminders for any school work I needed to do. I ended my day lounging on the couch watching Netflix, just like anyone else does, and aimed to be in bed by 10:00 pm.

My day typically started with the abrupt sound of my alarm at 4:50 am and then another at 5:00 am. I would roll out of bed, reciting “you got this,” in my head to contradict the weight of my eyelids.

I missed a total of 5 weeks of the school spring semester upon returning from the Games and that wouldn’t be the last time I’d be away for so long. I had been putting off my chemistry lab work as long as I could because of the amount of school I was missing. When I enrolled in my organic chemistry lab, in the spring semester of my junior year, I was told that I could not miss more than three labs or it would be a health and safety liability. I was faced with a difficult decision; continue taking chemistry courses and compromise my athletic season or switch my major.