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US Water Polo Star Johnny Hooper Shares Horror of South Korean Balcony Collapse

"We saw immediate terrible pain, worse pain you can see ever in someone's facial expression."

Johnny Hooper, a U.S. Water Polo star, shared his story of survival after a balcony collapsed at a South Korean nightclub where the team was celebrating a world championship.

 "We felt the rumbling, the next thing you know, we were suspended in mid-air," Hooper says. "It's true like everyone says: Your life kind of goes right before your eyes and you're like, 'Is this it?'"

The second floor loft inside a South Korean nightclub collapsed, sending Hooper, his teammates and shards of glass crashing down.

"As soon as the floor collapsed, the most dangerous part about it: Those bottles became daggers, literally knives pointed up," Hooper recalls. 

Remarkably, Hooper escaped with a few cuts to his hand, now being held together with stitches. 

Despite his own injuries, Hooper and the team trainer rushed to the more severely injured Kaleigh Gilchrist, who was fresh off winning a third straight world championship for the U.S. Water Polo team. Gilchrist was writhing in pain from deep cuts to her leg.

"We saw immediate terrible pain, worse pain you can see ever in someone's facial expression," Hooper says.


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Hooper says Gilchrist is now in good spirits, recovering from surgery and he can't wait to welcome the fellow Southern California native home.

But Hooper isn't dwelling too long on the tragic event that took two lives, as the water polo star is off to the Pan American Games in Peru With an important life lesson he’ll take with him in and out of the pool.

 "We have a switch," Hooper says. "We know when to turn it on. How hard a situation gets, you got the guy right next to you--left and right--and they have your back. You're not going to fail when you do it for people you love and care about."

Hooper said his doctor has given him to the OK to practice, even with stitches on his left hand. Along with his teammates, Hooper leaves for Peru on Wednesday.

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