If you ask Maha Amer what brought her to Florida, she would say the Gators’ confidence and pride.
If you ask Amer why she stayed, she would say her support system.
She is a two-time All-American, the 2022 Southeastern Conference Co-Female Diver of the Year and a 2022 College Swimming and Diving Association of America Scholar All-American from Cairo, Egypt, who was a member of the UF women’s diving team from 2021 to 2023.
Amer’s diving career began when she was 7 years old in a gymnastics club in Egypt when her club coach noticed her talent and brought her into diving to launch a now seventeen-year career.
“My coach basically recruited me, told me I’d be good in diving,” Amer said. “We ended up sticking with it.”
Amina Khairy, Amer’s mother, felt Amer belonged to the sport because it challenged her.
“I think for Maha it was a bit unique, [Amer and diving] chose each other,” Khairy said. “It’s the challenge, the confidence, the strength, the art, the body. It’s everything.”
Amer qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil when she was 16 years old. She finished 28th out of 30 in the women’s 3-meter springboard competition as the youngest diver in the field.
Amer met the first coach who recruited her to come to the United States in Bolsano, Italy, after the 2016 Olympics.
“For all of us, her going to the Olympics at the Rio de Janeiro made a really big shift,” Khairy said. “Wow, Maha is going to be something big in diving.”
Two years later, at 18 years old, Amer moved to the United States to start her bachelor’s degree in public health and economics at the University of Arkansas.
“My first semester was extremely tough,” the diver said. “Just everything about it. I almost didn’t come back after I went home for Christmas break.”
The transition of moving across the world was harsh on Amer.
“I’m really close with my mom, dad and brother,” Amer said. “So leaving them behind was the biggest challenge.”
The new curriculum, the new environment and the new world she was thrown into took a toll on her mental health, but her parents guided her through this struggle.
“At the beginning, she got a bit nostalgic, leaving her friends, her parents,” Khairy said. “It was good for her because this was a new challenge.”
Amer found her rhythm in her second semester. The scholar took 17 credit hours and ended with a 4.0 GPA.
“I think I would owe me coming back to my parents,” she said. “They’re the only people who really supported me and believed in me.”
She continued to compete at the University of Arkansas for a total of three years after she redshirted for the 2019-2020 season.
While at Arkansas, Florida’s head diving coach Bryan Gillooly, saw her and was immediately impressed.
“I remember even when she wasn't on Florida's team, taking videos of her diving, to show to my divers,” Gillooly said. “She was doing a lot of the things that were just so high level and a lot of the techniques that I was trying to teach.
In her last two years of eligibility, Amer decided to transfer with her heart set on being a Gator.
“I had told my parents that if Bryan reaches out to me and recruits me, I’m dropping all other offers,” Amer said. “I will commit to the University of Florida.”
Two hours before Amer made her decision, Gillooly reached out.
“I scraped up everything I could scholarship-wise and gave her a call and we went from there,” Gillooly explained.
Khaled Amer, her father, found Gainesville a better fit for her because she felt more relaxed and at home as a Gator.
“Maybe it's the atmosphere, the support, she felt more mature, more happy to practice,” Khaled expressed. “This, of course, reflected on her meets this season.”
During the 2022-2023 regular season, the Cairo native set a school record in the 1-meter springboard with a score of 350.55 points against the Tennessee Volunteers. On her senior day, she won both the 1-meter and 3-meter against the Florida Atlantic Owls.
On day one of the SEC Conference championships, Amer fell from the diving board to finish in 13th place in the women’s 3-meter preliminary dive.
“I was a little bit down, but that night Brian talked to me a lot,” Amer said. “He said ‘it can only go up from there,’ and the mindset I went into the next day was completely different.”
The following day Amer broke her three-year streak of placing fourth and brought home a silver medal in the 1-meter springboard for a tallied score of 337.85 points.
“This medal meant a lot to me because I was surrounded by the people I love, the people who have helped me, the people who have seen me at my lowest, the people who have supported me the most,” she said.
In the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships, Amer placed 12th in the 1-meter springboard with a score of 304.85 points and placed 25th in the 3-meter springboard. Amer felt the team culture was so encouraging on her bad days, it often pushed her to do better.
“I think it always takes a whole village to help navigate being a student and an athlete,” Amer said.
Carina Lumia, a junior on the Florida women’s diving team and close friend of Amer, agreed with the graduate diver.
“I know they’re proud of me no matter what happens,” Lumia said. “When you’re having a bad day, it’s nice to know my girls always have my back.”
Lumia brought up Amer as a person she always felt she could turn to, especially on her more difficult diving days.
“I know she is a person I can go to for anything. She always has an answer,” Lumia said. “She’s just someone anyone would want as a friend.”
Amer’s parents expressed multitudes of gratitude for the support system the Florida diving community provided to their daughter.
“If I have a chance to send a thanks and appreciation to her coach, colleagues, her professors and all the people in the athletic department at the university,” Khaled said. “This sort of appreciation, I feel it so genuinely.”
Contact Krisha Sanghavi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @krishasang.
Krisha Sanghavi is a third-year public relations and economics major. In her free time, she loves cheering on Miami sports teams and spending time with her friends.