By Levan Reid

BOSTON (CBS) – A local teenager is one of just two American divers about to compete in the Youth Olympics in China. And while the 18-year-old from Newton is excited about the trip and the games, she’s also focused on an even higher goal.

The concentration and focus are intense for Gracia Leydon Mahoney as she steps out on a high board. A diver since age nine, she graduated from Newton North High School in May with a string of diving victories to her credit. Her next challenge is the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. “It’s a very unique event because there’s only two U.S. divers, me and one other boy. It’s all kids my age and we get to live in an Olympic village and stuff like that which is very cool and I’m very excited,” she says.

For seven years Tracey Bird has coached Gracia, and has seen her poise and skills grow. “More than anything else, she’s a lovely young woman. She’s a beautiful diver and a great competitor. Very, very disciplined. Very hard working. You need to be to be at this level,” says Coach Bird. The duo works together six days a week. “We’re in the pool at least two hours each day and she complements that with conditioning outside of the pool,” says Bird. “You have to sacrifice going out and staying up late with your friends, and doing some sort of things that regular teenagers would do, but in the end it’s so worth it and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Gracia says.

And the training and intensity pays off. “I love just flying through the air. Your heart is pounding and racing, and then you do the dive and it’s just so exhilarating and you feel accomplished,” says Gracia. And she has her mind and heart set on the 2016 Olympics. “Every day I’m always working toward that as my major goal, and hopefully it all works out in 2 years.

After the games in China, Gracia will continue her diving career at Stanford University and work to make the U.S. Olympic team.


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