IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WJMN) — Delaney Schnell’s journey to Olympic glory began in Iron Mountain, the town where she was born in December 1998.
Shortly after, she moved to the Menominee-Marinette area, where she spent the first three years of her life before heading southwest to Arizona. Though she has spent most of her life out west, she still has found time to make it back up to the U.P. to visit family that still lives in the area.
“Every time I go back, I just feel so at peace,” Schnell said. “That’s my happy place. I love going back up there and visiting family there. I definitely am a Yooper at heart.”
As a child, her first love was gymnastics. But by the age of 10, her passion for the sport was burning out.
“My sister and my brother swam at the Arizona pool,” Schnell said. “So I would sometimes go to the pool and wait for them to be done so we could take them home. This is around the time I was getting burnt out at the gym. I saw one of my gymnastic teammates on the diving boards. She had just quit and she switched to diving.”
Schnell, who looked up to her older teammate, walked over and began a conversation.
“I was like yeah, ‘I’m thinking about quitting gymnastics,'” Schnell said. “‘I’m pretty burnt out and knew that my parents wanted me in other sports so I was like I’m not sure what I’m going to do.'”
That’s when her teammate suggested a shift to a new sport.
“She told me I should try diving and because I looked up to her I was like, ‘OK, yeah of course,'” Schnell said. “Before that, I was like, ‘No way.’ I was watching the divers and thought there was no way I could do that; it was terrifying. But yeah, I tried it the next day and instantly fell in love with it.”
At the pool, Schnell showed limitless potential, catching the eye of every coach she worked with.
“I had a coach tell me that I had a lot of potential and that I could go to an Olympics and he asked me, ‘Do you want to go to the Olympics?’ I was like, ‘I would love to.” I didn’t know that that was really possible at the time,” Schnell said.
In 2011, her dream of representing the USA became a reality.
“I ended up qualifying to Junior Pan Ams in 2011,” said Schnell. “That was my first time representing the country internationally. I think that was kind of the moment where I was like, ‘OK, I can actually be really good at this sport. I can actually go pretty far.’ And that’s when the Olympic goal became a little more realistic.”
Schnell would continue moving up the ranks in the sport. She attended the University of Arizona in 2018 where she would build an impressive resume:
Even with all those accomplishments under her belt, Schnell said she still lacked the confidence needed to become an Olympian.
“A lot of coaches saw potential and … I guess I never really saw it in myself in a way,” Schnell said. “I mean, my confidence just wasn’t there.”
Schnell gained a massive confidence boost at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. She would take home the bronze medal while scoring Team USA’s first women’s 10-meter world championship medal in 14 years.
“I think going to World’s and performing the way I did is definitely a big confidence booster that I think has really brought a new level to my diving,” Schnell said.
She would ride that momentum to last week’s qualifying trials for the Tokyo Games. Schnell was at the top of her game at exactly the right time qualifying in the 10-meter synchronized platform and platform dives.
Schnell will now get to realize her lifelong dream of becoming an Olympian representing the United States in Tokyo.
“It’s unreal,” she said. “It doesn’t really feel real. I think other people see it more than I do right now. I think when I get to the games it’s going to start feeling a little more real.”
Schnell still has a lot of her story to be written, but she is hoping that her last chapter will end exactly where it started, the Upper Peninsula.
“I love the U.P.,” Schnell said. “I’ve always said I wanted to move back there whenever I can. It’s special, it really is. It honestly makes me a little teary because that is my home. I know I grew up in Tucson, but I see Upper Michigan as more of my home than I do Tuscon.”