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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Brothers Skip and Peyton Donald make the Florida dive team feel like a family

Skip is spending his last swim season alongside his little brother, Peyton

Senior diver Skip Donald begins his dive during the Gators' meet against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, October 27, 2023, at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium in Gainesville, Florida.
Senior diver Skip Donald begins his dive during the Gators' meet against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, October 27, 2023, at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Natatorium in Gainesville, Florida.

Brothers Skip and Peyton Donald both transferred to UF’s dive team and are now competing side by side for Skip Donald’s final collegiate season.

The brothers didn’t plan on ending up at UF together. Skip Donald transferred from Auburn University in 2022, and Peyton Donald began his diving career at Stanford University before transferring for his sophomore season.

Two-time SEC Men’s Diver of the Week recipient Skip Donald is now in his senior year, and his brother’s presence on the team encourages him to compete this season.

“My ideal season would be for both of us to dive in the SEC Championship together, win the SEC Championship together with the team and compete in the NCAA together again in multiple events,” Skip Donald said.

The siblings have been diving for over a decade. It’s a full-circle ending to Skip Donald’s collegiate career to have his younger brother alongside him. 

The two moved to Texas in 2012 and taught themselves how to flip in the backyard on the grass, Skip Donald said. 

The brothers then got a trampoline to practice flipping even further. 

“One of our neighbors was noticing us doing this, and he was in high school diving,” Skip Donald said. “He was the one that kind of initiated us to go watch him in one of his competitions.” 

This inspired the Donalds to sign up for club teams and start their journey. 

Despite the two-year age gap, the brothers are always together and see themselves as best friends. They’ll get lunch and go to the store. They’re together all the time. 

And they don’t even have to talk to understand what’s going on in each other’s heads.

“I’ve known him for 19 years,” Peyton Donald said. “I can just give him a look 50 feet away and he’ll know what I’m talking about.”

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Senior diver Anton Svirskyi said the brothers support each other and the team in a way only family can.

“Even in individual sports like diving, having brothers who dive together can still create a sense of family within the training environment,” Svirskyi said. 

He said the brothers bring in competitive spirit and provide emotional support to the team during challenging times. 

When the Donalds’ family comes to cheer for them, it cheers for the rest of the team as if they were family as well, Svirskyi said.

“This sense of shared experience and understanding contributes to a strong bond between brothers and their teammates,” he said. 

Svirskyi said this creates a supportive atmosphere that resembles a family dynamic, and he explained how Peyton Donald helped Skip Donald to come out of his shell.

“Last year, Skip Donald was just starting to develop his relationships here in Florida and was oftentimes found to be an outsider in many groups,” Svirskyi said. “Having a brother alongside him helped Skip better fit into the environment surrounding him.”

Svirskyi said he feels he’s spent his entire life with the brothers, despite only knowing them for a few years. 

“Ultimately, whether in a team sport or an individual sport, having brothers involved enhances the overall experience and contributes to a sense of unity and camaraderie,” he said. 

The two were homeschooled and never got the chance to compete against each other until the 2023 NCAA Championships. 

When they finally challenged each other, they teased one another, Skip Donald said. 

The Donalds have brought both a strong relationship and strong results to the team.

Skip Donald led the Gators with a 361.90 in Thursday's preliminary round on Day 2 of the Tennessee Invitational. 

He also placed first in the men’s 1-meter Wednesday after scoring a 359.00. Peyton Donald followed close behind in fifth place with a 335.80.

The Donalds will compete next in a matchup against in-state rival Florida State University in Ocala, Florida, Jan. 26.

Contact Lacey Rogers at lrogers@alligator.org. Follow her on X @laceyyrog.

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Lacey Rogers

Lacey Rogers is a third-year journalism major and sports reporter for The Alligator. She is a huge Washington Capitals fan and hopes to work for them after she finishes school.


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