The Adrenaline Rush of the Dive
Diver Alexander Lube, who is studying civil engineering at RWTH, has won a silver medal at the World University Games.Copyright: © RWTH Aachen
Right after our interview, diver Alexander Lube will go on vacation: Together with his girlfriend Lina, he will travel to Corsica in his van. He does not have much time for leisure: “My personal life is suffering.” Sports, studying, leisure activities – it's not easy for the civil engineering master's student (after gaining his Abitur from Aachen’s Pius Gymnasium, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering) to balance all these roles.
But the limits to his personal life are offset by great sporting achievements and experiences that are priceless. His sport has already taken him to Taiwan, and many times to Italy, Japan, Bulgaria, and Poland. And most recently to China, where things went very well for the 26-year-old from Aachen: At the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, the European vice-champion earned a silver medal in synchronized diving from the 3-meter board. In the singles finals he finished seventh in the 3-meter board and fourth in the 1-meter platform. It is not only the sporting success that he remembers fondly, but also the “Olympic feeling” that comes with participating in the Games. The state-of-the-art competition venues, bonding with athletes in the village, or the “German House” – it all reminded Alexander of the event’s “big brother”, the Olympic Games. Everything at the event was huge, the distances between the stadiums, for example – the shuttle from the village to the diving venue took an hour – but also the enormous effort put in by volunteers. And, according to Alexander, the team spirit was great, too.
Were you more of a lone wolf or did you really feel like part of Team Germany?
Definitely the latter. For example, we had enough time to cheer on the German judo and volleyball teams; conversely, many athletes from the team supported us, which was really cool. And even beyond the competitions, we talked to each other, exchanged ideas, and supported each other – even if we just bumped into each other in the hallway. Then there were the award ceremonies, where we all got together. Ultimately, you have to think of the Games as a huge university campus – a campus boasting ten- to fourteen-story buildings, however. Our team occupied floors seven to twelve, while the other floors in the building were occupied by the French and the Brazilians, and the atmosphere was fantastic.
You must have been in a great mood, too, especially after winning silver?!
Yes, I am extremely satisfied. It's part of our sport that after a dive we never actually say: It was perfect. But given the strong competition, we made the most of it, and even almost managed to beat the Chinese, who are virtually unbeatable. At least we challenged them a little bit.
How much is success in your sport dependent on athletic ability and how much on mental skills?
That’s difficult to say. In our training sessions, we focus more on athletic ability, on the technical side, trying to implement what the coach says or achieving our set goals. But in a competition, I think about 60 percent of your performance is mental: Keep your nerve, retrieve what you have trained and, importantly: Be prepared for the fact that when the adrenaline kicks in, you suddenly spin faster and jump higher. In competitions, your mind simply plays a crucial role.
Does this ability to focus benefit you in your studies?
Yes, it does. Focus and tenacity are qualities you really need when you study engineering, otherwise you may end up throwing your hands up in despair.
You were born in Aachen, so we really don’t need to ask how you got into diving ...
Like so many others: Even before I started school, I had to dive off the three-meter board to earn a swimming badge at the Ulla Klinger Hall, which was called the Westhalle back then, and was asked by a coach if I would be interested in diving. I was.
And how many belly flops and back flops have you done in your career?
Countless. When diving from the ten-meter platform, I am very careful – I only do things that I can fully control, so nothing has happened there so far. But from the 3 -meter board it’s okay to have a crash landing now and then, it just happens. Even if it's out of stupidity, because you're not fully focused. A classic mistake is not being able to keep your hand on your body when turning because of the high centrifugal forces, and then you lose your position and kind of sail through the air. This rarely looks good.
It is difficult for non-divers to imagine what it is like to dive. Are you on auto pilot, so to speak?
Yes, everything is automated. The sequence of movements runs subconsciously.
Now is your chance to promote your sport.
The fascinating thing is that it is a mix of just about everything. It's all about pushing yourself to the limit, about athleticism, strength, the adrenaline that rushes through your body when you dive, but also about the perfectionism it takes to keep getting better. As a result, divers are so broadly positioned in terms of coordination that they have the basics for many other sports. We have trampoline sessions, we do gymnastics, and for our warm-up we often play soccer or table tennis.
And why are you studying mechanical engineering and not sports science?
(laughs) Because I already enjoyed science and technology at school. And because I would love to work as an engineer in the future.
How often do you train?
Six days a week for 2.5 hours, that's comparatively little for divers. Since the pandemic, we have also been doing several training courses with the national team, which means six hours a day for six days in a row.
Do you have much time for other pursuits in your life besides sports and studying? Your girlfriend, friends, family?
It can be difficult sometimes. But now, with the most important events of the year behind me, I can relax a bit more. You just have to be very well organized; for example, I did a lot of my studying from home or on the road. This means that campus life largely falls by the wayside, which is a real shame. I really would love to go to class with my friends, go to the cafeteria, study together – but you can't do everything, you have to find a compromise.