Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Faerber beats the odds every time he dives

Miracle baby is now nationally ranked diver

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Eighth-grader Timothy Faerber was born clinically dead 13 1⁄2 years ago, but he survived and now is a nationally ranked youth diver competing in national and international competition.
It’s amazing Cabin John Middle School eighth-grader Timothy Faerber is walking this earth, let alone leaping off diving boards in international competitions.

Faerber was born clinically dead on Oct. 15, 1994, and his prognosis was not good. Meconium aspiration had partially dissolved his lungs and he’d been choked by his umbilical cord. After two weeks on an experimental heart and lung machine — doctors made an incision in his neck — Faerber was sent home healthy.

‘‘He’s a miracle baby,” Timothy’s mother, Yolanda, said. ‘‘They never expected him to be an athlete. They put him on that experimental lung thing and they’re going through this whole list of things that could happen. He could have cerebral palsy, he could have this, he could have that. The doctors at Children’s Hospital are amazed at what he’s done.”

Though he doesn’t remember the fight for his life — doesn’t often think about what could have been or harp on what he’s been through — it’s always in the back of his mind. And it’s instilled in him a sense of fearlessness necessary to be an elite diver; one that, coupled with his sheer natural talent, drive and will, separates him from the rest of the field.

Currently the No. 3-ranked Boys 14-15 diver in the country, according to USA Diving, his top-5 finish at the 2008 Spring East National Championships April 25-27 qualified him to represent the United States at the British Junior Elite National Championship in Leeds, England.

This spring marks Faerber’s second consecutive trip to the British championships, but first in the 14-15 age bracket; he won East Nationals in the 12-13 group in 2007. Faerber will leave for England May 23. He developed a stress fracture in the growth plate of his right hand and is wearing a cast, but doesn’t plan on letting that affect his performance.

Montgomery Dive Club coach Petar Trifinov said if Faerber avoids serious injury and maintains the dedication and drive he’s displayed the last six years, the Olympics are a realistic goal. Faerber has competed with the Montgomery Dive Club since 2002 and has worked with Trifinov for three years. In that time he’s won four AAU Nationals gold medals and represented the United States at the U.S.-Canada meet in 2005.

Faerber is a natural; he taught himself to do front flips off the diving board at age 3. But as easy as he makes everything look, the way he so smoothly executes his twists, turns, flips and entry into the water is anything but simple. So much goes into being a top level diver: strength, smarts, understanding the body’s movements and the ability to break those natural tendencies, comprehending the intricacies of each dive and executing them to perfection, work ethic and fearlessness.

The fear factor is huge in diving. Athletes are constantly learning new, dangerous tasks. Though there are safety precautions, and dives are learned in progressive fashion, nothing tops the fear of the unknown.

A dive may take five seconds to complete. But in that short amount of time, the athlete’s mind is racing, thinking of getting his feet to the end of the board, getting the correct arm swing, keeping his head up, completing the dive, looking for the water. Trifinov said Faerber’s fearlessness and his overall mentality and smarts set him apart from others his age.

‘‘Everybody gets scared,” Faerber said. ‘‘If you’re not afraid of anything, you’re crazy. I’m just as scared as anyone else, but I think I’m able to keep it to a minimum. I’m able to hide it and get the dive done. Getting to this level is a tough process.”

Faerber has defied all odds. He knows how fragile life is and he’s vowed to take advantage of whatever opportunities life throws at him.

‘‘The doctors thought I wasn’t going to be alive,” Faerber said. ‘‘And I don’t think about that too much, but subconsciously, maybe. It’s neat that I’ve been through something like that and been able to get to be a top-level athlete.”