Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Junior Texas A&M men's diver Grant Nel has been a lot of places. Born in South Africa, the athlete and his family moved to Australia when he was just 13 years old. After spending his next years in the land down under, Nel made the decision to dive at the collegiate level for Texas A&M University.
Nel began competing as an athlete when he was four years old, but it wasn't in his preferred sport of diving.
"I actually started as a gymnast, and did that for about seven years before I started diving" Nel said. "My mother is an international competitor in gymnastics, and my dad is very sporty too, so they got me into that when I was young."
In Australia, Nel dove for Melbourne Elite Diving Academy and was spotted by former TAMU diving coach Kevin Wright at a meet in Canada. Nel said that Wright sought out other Aggie athletes there as well.
"It was funny because, actually, [junior A&M divers] Cam McLean and Janie Potvin and myself were all there at the same meet," Nel said. "And we all three ended up here."
Nel also said that two of his diving teammates were a big reason that he decided to come to College Station.
"I've been friends with Cam for a long time, and I've known [former A&M diver] Eric Sehn for a long time," Nel said. "Coming to dive with them was something I wanted to do."
The bond that the diving team shares, and that Grant takes a part in, is something easily seen at meets and practices. The men and women's teams practice together, cheer for each other at meets, coach each other while doing drills and always interact as a tightly knit group.
Grant said that the closeness of the team has been a big part of his success as an Aggie.
After traveling to TAMU Nel said that the thing he enjoys most about College Station is how the people are in mid-Texas.
"People here are just so nice," Nel said. "People will stop me just because of my accent and they're always really nice to me."
On the business side of Grant's trip to Aggieland, he has performed even better than anyone imagined.
As a freshman, Grant made the NCAA championship meet in both the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events, finishing in fourth place in the 1-meter. He earned his first NCAA All-American honor that season.
As a sophomore, Nel earned All-America honors in each of the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events as well as the platform diving event. He finished third in the 3-meter at the NCAA Championship meet and eighth in the 3-meter springboard.
Despite his success, Grant said that he still has a specific goal to achieve before his college tenure is over.
"Before I leave A&M, I want to get an individual national championship title," Nel said. "I know that I have the skills, and the things head coach Lerew has done with me have me diving better than ever. I know it's a high goal, but I really think I can reach it."