Michele Mitchell

Arizona Republic file photo

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams.

Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. In August, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Michele Mitchell


Michele Mitchell competed in two Olympics with two very different nicknames.

"The first one I was the 'unknown from Tucson, Ariz.,' " Mitchell said. "That's what they dubbed me. The (second time), I was the 'old woman.' "

The nicknames didn't seem to matter all that much, though. Mitchell, born in Scottsdale and a Phoenix Arcadia graduate, won a silver medal in diving's 10-meter platform event in 1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

"The newness and sparkle of the '84 games, and the fact that they were in the U.S., was amazing," Mitchell said.

She returned in '88 in South Korea and had the same result as in '84.

" '88 was the end," said Mitchell, who took up diving, along with gymnastics, when she was 12. "Korea was wonderful, but I was a veteran at that point and had a different point of view."

Before she was an Olympian, Mitchell was a star for the Arizona Wildcats. She competed for the UA from 1979 to 1983 and was a four-time All-American and a nine-time U.S. national champion.

She was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1988.

In addition, Mitchell won a championship at the 1985 World FINA Cup, was a finalist for the 1986 Sullivan Award, given to the top amateur athlete nationally, and was a 1987 Pan American Games champion.

In 1995, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

After her diving career, Mitchell worked as a commentator for ESPN for a few years. In 1997, she returned to Tucson and served as the men's diving coach for the Wildcats, winning the Pac-10 Conference men's diving Coach of the Year award four times.

Mitchell recently assumed a new role; she now serves as the team's director of operations.

"I'm doing both jobs at the moment while our new coach gets some papers in order, so I'm double-timing everything," Mitchell said.

Hometown, age

Scottsdale, 49

She said it

"As a current NCAA coach, I think of (the Olympics) often, but at a distance. My kids remind me. It seems like a lifetime ago. A different lifetime, as I'm a mom now." - Mitchell

Daniel Berk