When your chosen sport involves leaping from 27m platforms before impacting with water at around 85km/h, it's good to have a few close friends around for a little support and comfort. For Andy Jones, David Colturi and Steven LoBue, the three permanent male divers who make up the USA cliff diving team, their shared experiences in this sport over the last 8 years have helped to forge a very unique and powerful bond.
LoBue was the first of the American trio to make the bold leap into the world of cliff diving back in 2011, but his days as the sole USA representative were short-lived. He was soon joined by the tall Jones and a young Colturi, and since then they've enjoyed a special relationship.
"It's tough to describe the USA Cliff Diving camaraderie in words," says Colturi, "but cliff diving would not be the same for any of us if we were here on our own, or just one or two of us.
"Having that brotherhood between me, Andy and Steve, and sometimes Kyle (Mitrione) here as well, it gives you everything you need. It gives you somebody to goof off with, somebody to help focus and maybe motivate you.
"They are always there for you no matter what. And if you are nervous about going up doing a dive or just need to waste a couple minutes having fun, they are the perfect people to deal with. I can't be more happy and more grateful to have these guys by my side."
'Brotherhood' is a powerful word, but that special feeling of togetherness is shared by Colturi's compatriots. LoBue explains that "we sort of know each other's habits and tendencies", while Jones is comfortable enough to jokingly make fun of their little group: "David and Steve drive me crazy. They follow me around, especially at events. I try to run off and get some alone time, but they just show up anyway."
It's clear to see that these guys are super close. But what about when it's time to get down to business during competition? Countless times in the history of sport we've witnessed friendships and patriotic camaraderie collapse in the heat of battle. Not this trio though. Not a chance.
"Between the three of us, we all have our ups and downs at different times," says LoBue. "Andy was third in the world, one year I was second, Dave has been right there always and then fighting through injuries. The biggest thing is that we are all brothers and we are happy for each other when you are doing well."
This support was on show earlier this season in Polignano a Mare, as Jones recalls fondly:
"Steven and Dave didn't have the best day and I took second place, and there they are filming in slow-mo for the champagne spraying and cheering me on. It's really cool to have their support even though I know that they had kind of a tough day."
Such genuine desire to see rivals perform well is evident amongst all the athletes in cliff diving. With the USA team, however, it runs even deeper than a few words of encouragement and supportive cheers.
"We are very happy to coach each other," says LoBue. "The best part of having those guys around is that they're not in your head, they are not making you feel bad or anything for maybe not performing as well. It's really just about coaching, they look at your dive and can give me feedback."
Whether it's coaching each other, training together or simply goofing about and blowing off a little steam, you'll never catch these guys low on spirit or enthusiasm. Positivity is clearly a core value within them, and one that has driven them to some memorable successes over the years.
"We've all grown so much," says Colturi, "from easy dives to now some of the hardest in the world. We've all been on the podium, and we've all won one. I don't think a single country can say that besides us."
They have all lived their dreams together over the last 8 years. They've grown, matured, nursed injuries and tasted success together. Colturi sums up their unique journey perfectly when he says:
"Now Andy and Steven are both dads. It's wild, you know, it's crazy to think, we've made a life cliff diving together, and that is something we will share for the rest of our lives."