Then a fan who couldn't contain his excitement yelled something that would have made Tiger Woods cuss. Loukas giggled to herself.
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Stratford, London Borough of Newham, London, UK
Aquatics Centre, London E20 2ZQ, UK
Deerfield High School, Deerfield, IL 60015, USA
Immediately, plenty of suspects emerged. In the crowd wearing unmistakable blue T-shirts emblazoned with "Go Christina," on the fronts sat 27 proud members of the Loukas family. The clan included parents George and Patty, who own the Cubby Bear in Wrigleyville, sister Stacey and brothers Nick and Kosta, aunts, uncles and even Loukas' 80-year-old grandmother, Loretta Conroy.
In other words, Olympic diving was all Greek to me Friday — literally. The close family came to provide Loukas a boost as big as the one she gets off the board, so Christina's mom doubted any of them would have dared do anything as silly as startle her with a shout.
"We don't call her Chrissie either, so I don't think it was us," Patty said. "But if I find out during my debriefing at the family meeting (Friday night) that somebody did yell something, I'm going to have to deal with it."
Her daughter already did. Loukas blocked out all of the noise, just as she has since recommitting to the sport after a nine-month layoff. She uncorked her highest-scored dive of the day — a clean, backward 2½ somersault. The strong opening helped Loukas rank seventh out of 30 competitors to advance to Saturday's semifinals. How far the Deerfield High product has come in four years.
"When I went to Beijing (in 2008), it felt like the Olympics. It was overwhelming even though I performed well and was happy with it," said Loukas, who finished ninth at those Games. "But coming in this time, I have a whole different mindset. I'm relaxed, calm and confident. It really just felt like another diving meet."
That's what happens when a sport becomes fun again, the missing element when Loukas walked away in February 2010. The thrill was gone, the joy had vanished. The only thing Loukas did somersaults over was the idea of being a typical twentysomething in Chicago. The only thing she would be diving into was a social life.
"We knew she'd go back," Patty said. "We didn't know when."
Sometimes the lack of a plan can help one develop over time. After nine months of letting her mind become uncluttered, Loukas made it up. She would pursue happiness and the 2012 Olympics — in that order. She would change practice routines and coaches to Kenny Armstrong, a positive thinker who ran the highly regarded Woodlands Dive Team outside Houston. She would follow his direction and take a light approach that ultimately allowed Loukas to become a serious medal contender.
The easy rapport between Loukas and Armstrong was on display when, before each of her five dives Friday, she gave a look the coach's way and they exchanged smiles that reminded her to relax.
"It was a steady performance," a pleased Armstrong said. "She missed one entry but the hurdles were perfect today. We're right where we need to be."
This time around at the Olympics, Loukas feels more like she belongs. This time, she is savoring more and sweating less. During the opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium, TV cameras caught Loukas singing "Hey Jude" along with Sir Paul McCartney. During down time in her dorm room, Loukas escapes between sessions by watching her guilty TV pleasure,"Gossip Girl," on her computer.
So loose was Loukas after competing Friday that, in the media mixed zone, she recognized a TV reporter from Greece who visited her in Chicago three years ago while making a documentary on great Greek-American athletes. They shared a conversation and a hug. A minute later, Loukas was making small talk about where her beloved Cubs had traded Ryan Dempster.
"I'm having a blast here and the best part is hanging out in the Olympic Village," Loukas said.
It was there where a group of U.S. divers, including Loukas, used teamwork to produce a YouTube video that parodied the pop song, "Call Me Maybe." They titled it, "Call Me Lochte," as a playful ode to U.S. men's swimmer Ryan Lochte. Look closely for a Loukas cameo.
"I did the feet thing (shuffling), and then the hair flip," Loukas said. "Those were my two shining moments."
If Loukas were to add another Sunday in the finals, they will be shouting her name again — and nobody in her big Greek family will mind.