London 2012

Guide to Diving

Last Updated: 27/07/11 2:27pm

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One of the most popular Olympic sports with spectators, competitive diving has been around for over 100 years.

Current Olympic events include the three-metre springboard and 10-metre platform, as well as synchronized events in each for both men and women.

Diving at the Olympics was initially dominated by the USA, but this command began to waiver with the participation of China at the end of the 1980s. Since the retirement of American great and four-time Olympic gold medallist Greg Louganis, China have excelled in the men's event, while China's women divers have proved themselves unbeatable of late.


  • Arm stand dive: A dive that begins from a handstand position, used only in platform diving.
  • Balk: An illegal action in springboard and platform diving that occurs when a diver begins their dive and then stops.
  • Come-out: Also known as kick-out. A technique used by the diver to stop the somersault and prepare for the entry.
  • Free: Used exclusively in twisting dives. A combination of straight, pike, or tuck.
  • Fulcrum: The moveable wheel on a springboard that is adjusted to control the amount of spring the diver gets from the board.
  • Pike: A diving position where the body is bent at the hips with the legs straight.
  • Rip: The ideal entry that creates little splash, named for its ripping sound as the diver enters the water.
  • Somersault: A movement in which a diver rotates the body on an imaginary horizontal axis the runs through the hips.
  • Smack: The term used when a diver enters the water in a manner that could cause physical pain or injury.
  • Take-off: The technique used and the elevation a diver achieves prior to the flight of a dive.
  • Tuck: Position that resembles a ball with the knees bent and the legs pulled as close to the body as possible.
  • Twist: Occurs when the diver rotates around an axis that runs from the head to the toes of the diver.

Despite the variety in the sport today, all the dives within it are based on four distinct body positions - 'Straight', 'Pike', 'Tuck' and 'Free'. In a competition these are referred to by the letters A, B, C and D respectively.

Divers also approach the dive from a number of positions, which can be categorised into six different 'groups' - Forward, backward, reverse, inward, twisting and arm-stand. The latter applies only to platform competitions, whereas the other five apply to both springboard and platform.

Dives are scored by a seven-judge panel, nine for synchronised, who can each award 10 points.

The judges only focus on how the dive has been performed, while the technical difficulty of the dive is taken care of by a tariff, which is based on the body position and from what approach the dive is taken.

The scorers usually consider the three elements of the dive: the approach, the flight, and the entry (with less splash when entering the water resulting in a higher score), while synchronized divers receive an additional score based on how synchronized the pair was throughout the dive.


The earliest forms of diving originated from people amusing themselves by jumping and diving from natural features such as rocks and cliffs or manmade structures such as bridges and piers, while it developed in Sweden and Germany in the 18th century, when gymnasts started performing tumbling routines into the water.

Tournaments emerged in the late 19th century, but the sport has expanded significantly over the years, with the diving practised today largely different to what was on display at the first recorded championship in the UK - the Championships of Scotland back in 1889.

The early competitions involved just plain dives from platforms, entailing the dive which is now called a forward dive straight. Nowadays there are many different styles and types of dive including various somersaults and twists which can be launched from a platform or springboard.

Diving was first introduced to the Olympic programme for the 1904 Games of St Louis, while it wasn't until 1908 that springboard diving was discovered. Women have taken part in Olympic diving events since the Stockholm Games in 1912.

After that integration, the Olympic programme of the sport was left largely unchanged until the 2000 Games in Sydney, where there was an inclusion of a synchronized diving variant for the springboard and platform events, meaning a total of eight diving events are now contested.

Olympic Greats

Gregory Louganis: A five-time Olympic medallist, including four golds, who dominated the men's side of the sport during the late 1970s and 1980s. An Olympic and world champion in both the 3m springboard and 10m platform, Louganis won back-to-back double gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Games.

Guo Jingjing: Chinese diver Jingjing has won more Olympic medals than any other female competitor in the sport. She claimed double silver at the 2000 Games in Sydney in the synchro springboard and 3m springboard before storming on to double Gold at both the 2004 and 2008 Games in the same events. She announced her retirement from the sport in 2011.

Fu Mingxia: Regarded as one of the all-time best female divers, Fu became the youngest world champion ever in any sport at the age of 12. She went on to represent China at three Olympic Games, winning five medals including four golds.

Klaus Dibiasi: Italian Dibiasi ruled the platform event between the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, winning three Olympic gold medals. The only Olympic diver to have won three successive golds, Dibiasi went on to coach the Italian diving team.

Best of British

Harold Clarke: Clarke competed at the 1908, 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, winning a rare medal for Great Britain with bronze at the 1924 tournament in Paris. He took the gong in the plain high diving event, which was later removed from the programme.

Isabelle White: At the age of 17, White, nicknamed 'Belle', secured a bronze medal in the inaugural women's 10m platform at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The Brit was 32 when she competed at her last Games in 1928.

Brian Phelps: Phelps became European champion in the ten-metre platform diving at the 1958 championships in Budapest at the age of just 14. Two years later, he won the bronze in the same event at the Olympic Games in Rome.

Peter Waterfield achieved silver in the 10m synchronised diving event in Athens

Leon Taylor and Peter Waterfield: The duo achieved silver in the 10m synchronised diving event at the 2004 Games in Athens - Britain's first Olympic diving medal since 1960. Taylor has now retired from competition, while Waterfield will partner British hopeful Tom Daley for the synchro event at the 2012 Games.

Ones to watch

Alexandre Despati: Canadian Despatie has racked up numerous honours since first coming to public attention by claiming Gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in the 10m platform event. He went on to win successive silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and will no doubt have his eye on gold in London.

Emilie Heymans: Also Canadian, Belgium-born Heymans already has three Olympic medals to her name, including silver in the 10m platform at Beijing 2008. At the 2009 world championships in Rome, Heymans fired a warning to her potential 2012 opponents by winning silver, making a successful transition from the platform to the 3m springboard.

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