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(This was originally part of a Pretty Tough series about the Summer Olympics. A Cliff Notes of sorts for all the events, athletes and trivia you need to know while watching the London Games.)

Competitive Diving is one of the most prestigious, competitive, drama-filled diving events at the Summer Games. The sport developed from gymnastics in the 18th century, when gymnasts in Sweden and Germany began to perform acrobatic somersaults and twists into the water. Originally, it was known as ‘fancy diving’.

Diving was first introduced in the official programme of the Olympic Games at the 1904 Games of St. Louis and has been an Olympic event ever since. It was one of the first Olympic sports to incorporate events for both men and women.

London 2012 Details

Venue: London Aquatics Centre
Competition Dates: July 29 – August 11, 2012
Women’s Platform August 8 – 9, 2012


Pike: A diving position where the body is bent at the hips with the legs straight and the toes pointed.

Rip: The ideal entry when a diver hits the water without making a splash. It is named after the ripping sound as the diver enters the water.

Platform: The board (either 3m or 10m) from which divers start their jumps.

Elevation: The height a diver achieves from a take-off.

Approach: Steps a diver takes to the end of a springboard or platform before take-off.

Entry: The end of a dive when the diver enters the water. The entry should be vertical. Ideally, although there is no such rule, the diver should create little or no splash.

Basic rules

Olympic diving competitions are strictly airborne and are held at two heights; a ‘springboard’ dive set at 3m above the water and a ‘platform’ dive, set at 10m.

Athletes compete individually and in pairs (synchronized diving, or ‘synchro’). Individual events consist of a preliminary round, semi-final and final, while the synchro competitions are straight finals.

Styles of diving include front, back, reverse, inward, twist and armstand, with points awarded according to technique and grace. The more difficult the dive the higher the points it can score if executed well.  Difficulty level is determined by the height of dive, take-off, and precise, or near perfect, body position.

Judges must also take into account starting positions, run-ups, take-offs, flight and entry into water (which should be perpendicular and cause as little splash as possible).

Each of the seven judges score dives out of 10 and the athlete with the highest total is the winner.

Who to watch

There is hope that an American diver will break through and end an Olympic medal drought that’s reached 12 years since Laura Wilkinson took gold in at the Sydney Games in 2000.

Watch for Brittany Viola, a veteran of two Trials, is making her first Olympic appearance this year. She’s the daughter of former MLB star Frank Viola and is the most consistent U.S. diver in her event.

Another contender is 2008 Olympian Haley Ishimatsu, who rebounded from finishing 13th at the 2011 nationals to win the 2012 winter nationals. Like Viola, her international record is underwhelming (14th at the Olympics, 17th at 2009 worlds), but she impressed a global field at May’s USA Diving Grand Prix with a fourth-place finish.

Also watch for Ohio’s Katie Bell, Jessica Parratto, Amy Cozad, Anna James

Olympic rivalry?

The sport has been dominated by the Chinese, who won seven out of the eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008.

Who’s the gold medal favorite?

Chen Ruolin of China is on track for gold this year. The 19 year-old won the gold medals in women’s 10m platform and 10m synchronized platform at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Who to follow on twitter…

@CassidyKrug (U.S. Team Captain)
@HippieBell (Katie Bell)

Olympic Diving fact

Athletes must be 14 by the end of an Olympic year to able to compete at London 2012 meaning that diving has one of the lowest age restrictions of all Olympic sports.

Related Posts:
Springboard & Platform DivingSpringboard & Platform Diving
by Ronald F. O’Brien

This book provides readers with inside information once exclusively reserved for the world’s best. A one-of-a-kind blueprint for diving success, written by one of the greatest coaches ever in the sport.

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