05/06/1996 at 01:00 AM EDT
HE HAD ALREADY WON A NATIONAL TITLE BY 1988, WHEN photographer Herb Ritts noticed him in a diving competition on TV and passed his name on to GQ. Ever since, Kent Ferguson, 33, has managed to hold down two careers. Currently the six-time national champion in the three-meter springboard, he is expected to make his second Olympic team next month. You can also find him modeling Tommy Hilfiger in Macy's and Bloomingdale's catalogs. "The fact that I'm a world-class athlete sets me apart as a model," he says. "Clients recognize me and want me for their products." If that's not enough, observes Greg Louganis, Ferguson's former teammate, "Kent has that classic, Iowa-boy freshness." He comes by it naturally. Born in Cedar Rapids, the tanned, azure-eyed Ferguson, who began diving at age 11, "was handsome right along from the beginning," says his dad, John, a semiretired dentist. "Plus, he's hardworking—everything that makes a father proud." For all the backward somersaults and half twists he can do, Kent doesn't stake his future on his body—or on his face. He would rather fall back on his other job—part-time manager at a Home Depot store in Miami. "You have to have steady background work," he says, "and that's my ace in the hole."