Team USA’s Abby Johnston: ‘I can be up there and contend for a medal’

Abby Johnston has been here before, competing in an Olympic diving final. What’s interesting, though, is that the past two days of competition — the women’s 3m springboard preliminary and semifinal — were new experiences.

Johnston took silver in the 2012 London Games in the synchronized 3m springboard final with parntner Kelci Bryant, but the 26-year-old veteran acknolwedged that she was battling nerves in her first two days of individual competition.

“I actually was thinking about that,” Johnston told NBC‘s Kelli Stavast after Saturdays semifinal. “I’ve been to an Olympic final before. And today was my first Olympic semifinal and yesterday my first Olympic prelim.”

Now that she’s persevered through the uncharted territory and the medal ceremony is waiting, Johnston is feeling a littler better.

“I’ve been there before,” Johnston said. “I know how to perform and just tune out anything that’s going on around me and just do what I know how to do.”

Johnston will need a clean list to crack the podium, but she’s trending the right way.

She finished sixth in the preliminary with 327.75 points

And she finished moved up a spot to finish fifth in the semifinal with 324.75 points.

She’ll have to outmaneuver pros like China’s Shi Tingmao and He Zi, Canada’s Jennifer Abel and Italy’s Tania Cagnotto in order to take home hardware. And Johnston has a plan.

“I need to be a little sharper on my entries, going through the water a little bit cleaner,” Johnston said. “And, yeah, I think I can do that, I think if I’m confident up there and a little less nervous than (Saturday), I can be up there and contend for a medal.”

Sunday’s final will be her last chance; Johnston, who is pursuing a medical degree from Duke and getting married next summer, is expected to retire following the Rio Games.