Wendy Lucero-Schayes: 1963—: Olympic Diver Biography
Olympic springboard diver Wendy Lucero-Schayes' lifelong desire to succeed as an athlete led to an impressive career that included nine national titles, three U.S. Olympic Festival medals, and participation in the 1988 Olympics. She flourished as a diver in the early 1990s, demolishing the competition in almost every event that she entered between 1988 and 1992. While she was kept from competing in the 1992 Olympics due to an intestinal problem which lead to her retirement from the sport, Lucero-Schayes fell back on a long time career in sports broadcasting for major networks like ABC and ESPN and has remained an active voice in the world of women's sports.
Wendy Lucero was born on June 26, 1963, in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of Don Lucero, an electrician, and Shirley Lucero, a homemaker, both immigrants from Spain. As a young girl, Wendy admired her older sister's athleticism, competing against her whenever possible—and often coming in as runner-up—but Wendy remained persistent. She recalled to Great Women in Sports that finishing second "kept me in a 'trying to achieve mode.' I would always strive to be the best I could be because I wanted to grasp what my sister was attaining." Once she caught up to and matched her sister's sports success, Lucero-Schayes went on to test unexplored athletic challenges.
At the age of nine, LuceroSchayes began dreaming of competing in the Olympics. Her talents lay in gymnastics, figure skating, and springboard diving. Having begun gymnastics and ice skating lessons at a relatively late age, however, put her at a disadvantage in those sports. An even bigger challenge to the young athlete was her family's inability to afford the high cost of premium skating or gymnastics training essential to developing an Olympian. So Lucero-Schayes turned to springboard diving, a sport she first tried as a pre-teen. Her gymnastics training lent to her diving abilities, and she became remarkably competitive in springboard events. During her sophomore year of high school, LuceroSchayes came in fourth in Colorado's state diving championships and she finished in second place her senior year. A promising springboard diver, she also competed in national events as a high school student, placing sixth in the three-meter diving event at the Junior Olympic Championships when she was a senior.
An Academic All-American, Lucero-Schayes received a full scholarship to the University of Nebraska, where she won the 1985 NCAA championship on the one-meter springboard and placed first at both the 1984 and 1985 Phillips 66 Outdoor Championships. In 1986 she earned a bachelor's degree in television sales and management and worked as a production assistant for televised sporting events. She began a career as a freelance sportscaster for ABC, NBC, and ESPN, and hosted "Focus Colorado," a Denver talk show. In the meantime, she continued to rigorously train for the 1988 Olympics.
In preparation for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, Lucero-Schayes moved from the one-meter springboard to the three-meter springboard. In 1987 she won a gold medal at both the U.S. Olympic Festival and the American Cup II tournament. The same year she earned a bronze medal at the McDonald's International. Yet believing her performance could improve, she changed coaches and tried new training techniques. During this time Lucero-Schayes also learned that her mother had cancer. While this would have caused many athletes to falter, Lucero-Schayes used it as motivation to win the Olympic medal, not for herself, but for her mother.
Considered an underdog competitor in the 1988 Olympic Trials, she finished in second place at the 1988 Olympic Trials. In Seoul she came in sixth in the three-meter springboard event, a more than respectable performance that further enhanced her profile in sports as well as in the Hispanic community. Afterwards, she returned to Denver and continued her work in broadcasting. She met NBA basketball pro Dan Schayes at a charity event and the two married in 1991. For a time she divided her personal and training time between Milwaukee and Denver—where her husband played for the Nuggets—as well as Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she practiced with coach Dick Kimball.
Wendy Lucero-Schayes' best years as a diver came following the 1988 Olympics. She won the Olympic Festival titles in 1989 and 1990, the same years she also took the national championships in both the one-meter and three-meter events. In 1991 she won both springboard events in the national indoor championships, placed first in the one-meter and second place in the three-meter outdoors, and seized a silver medal at the world championship and Alamo International competitions. These impressive accomplishments led to her being voted the 1990 and 1991 U.S. Female Diving Athlete of the Year.
In the early 1990s Lucero-Schayes received a small bit of humorous media attention because of the fact that she shared the same name, Wendy, with two other world-class-level springboard divers. One of them, Wendy Wyland, would become yet another Wendy Lucero when she married Lucero-Schayes' younger brother Chad. Olympic Coach Ron O'Brien said it was especially difficult to have three Wendys on the U.S. team. He told the Seattle Times, "It was a bit of a problem when they were all three in the same training group. We used to have to use names other than Wendy."
The humor ended, however, when while preparing for the 1992 Olympics, Lucero-Schayes came down with a severe intestinal infection. The illness hampered her training, and as a result, she managed to only finish third in the Olympic trials, losing the opportunity to go to Barcelona, Spain. Though disappointed to miss participating in an Olympics held in her parents' native country, Lucero-Schayes remained proud of her diving career. She told Great Women in Sports, "Diving has been wonderful to me. Not only did it pay for a college education, but I was able to travel around the world, nothing that my parents were ever financially capable of doing."
After her husband retired from the NBA, the Schayes made their home in Orlando, Florida, with their cats. Exposure and success as an outstanding, world-class athlete also benefited Lucero-Schayes in her communications career. With broadcast work that included covering the diving world championships on ESPN, she finds pleasure and purpose working in television and speaking to audiences on motivational topics. She told Great Women in Sports, "The success I've had in sports overcoming those people who didn't think that I could [succeed] has made me like myself better and find out, 'Yeah, I am capable, and I'm not going to let them determine what I can do.' Hopefully I can share that with others."
Great Women in Sports, Visible Ink Press, 1996.
Seattle Times, May 14, 1990.
Sports Illustrated, January 14, 1991.
USA TODAY, August 3, 1990; June 17, 1992.
"Wendy Lucero-Schayes," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (June 12, 2003).