Diving into the deep end: Twins Brooke, Taylor Michael tackle challenges of Illinois swim & dive, college athletics

Cameron Krasuckic

Brooke and Taylor Michael, twins on the Illinois swim & dive team, started their athletic careers in Reno, Nevada. The two started as gymnasts, but made the transition to diving with support from friends, family, and coaches.

The road to Division-I athletics is a long and arduous journey, with only about 2% of all high school athletes getting the opportunity to do so. For twins Brooke and Taylor Michael, their dreams of athletics, much less DI athletics, seemed distant at first.

“I never thought it was a possibility to play sports in college,” Taylor said. “When I saw older teammates take the next step, it motivated me to do that.”

Their journey started in Reno, Nevada, where the then-gymnasts, no longer satisfied with gymnastics, were looking for other athletic opportunities.

“We got a flyer from our school about diving at a club,” Taylor said. “We weren’t sure if we wanted to try it, but our parents ended up convincing us and we both really liked it.”

The Michael twins would go on to develop and dominate Nevada diving, learning from University of Nevada diving coach Jian Li You, who was named to the 1980 Olympic team to represent China and was ranked No. 1 on the one-meter board during her time as an Olympic athlete.

Also coaching them was current Team USA olympian Krysta Palmer, who won a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the three-meter springboard.

“She started diving around the same time we were at that club, and she placed third in the Olympics,” Brooke said. “It’s been really inspirational to see that.”

While the twins never planned on going to the same college, they both found it hard to pass up on Illinois.

“We didn’t want to pick the same school because the other was going. We both wanted to find a school that was the best fit for us,” Taylor said. “But after, we just picked the one we liked the best and that was Illinois.”

“They’re like a family,” Brooke said. “When I came here, I just felt like they were already my friends. They were all so welcoming.”

The Michael twins have established themselves as strong contributors to Illinois diving, both making massive strides since their freshman campaigns, with both divers earning NCAA Zone cuts, allowing them to compete on a national scale.

With a full season of experience under their belts, both halves of the Michael twins feel ready to take their game to the next level.

“It has been nice to get into a normal season because it was a lot different last year when we had three dual meets and Big Tens,” Brooke said. “We were thrown into Big Tens last year as freshmen, and it was kinda hard, but it was a good experience.”

Being able to grow under a strong upperclassmen diving squad has helped both divers mature and learn to enjoy the moment.

“One of the best things I’ve learned from them is to just make practice fun, not putting pressure on yourself,” Brooke said. “Especially with Maddy (Crosby), she just makes it a lot less intense; she’s always joking around. I really admire that about her.”

While being a student athlete can be tough for all that get the opportunity, the Michael twins will be giving it their all.

Whether that be studying at the Gies College of Business for their marketing major or perfecting their dives at the ARC pool, these two athletes will be staying positive and taking it one step at a time, hoping to establish themselves in Illinois history.

Both Brooke and Taylor recognized, however, that their success, past and present, wouldn’t have been possible without their coaches, friends, Illinois diving and their parents.

“Our parents are the reason we started diving,” Taylor said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here today.”


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