Here are five important lessons to be learned from the Beijing Olympic diving competition. These lessons apply to each and every diver, regardless of whether you are a part-time summer club diver, an elite junior, or a senior national qualifier.
- Point Your Toes
Work on your toes – or feet (however you choose to describe them). The last thing that a judge sees are your feet sliding into the water. If you have a good rip, this attribute shows up even more, as there is less water to cover up the fact that you might not be pointing your toes. Good feet cannot be overstated! Stretching exercises will not only work on your overall flexibility, but also the feet. So don’t forget to stretch you toes and feet. Further, don’t forget to point your “feet” during the entire dive. Many divers will only curl their toes during a dive, and not really point their feet. It’s a little hard to point out a flaw in a Chinese diver, but Zhou Luxin has the worst feet of any elite international competitor in recent memory. The best feet in the men’s platform contest, Matthew Mitcham - the gold medalist!
Chinese divers are a great example of why fundamentals are important. Fundamentals include board work (hurdle, back press), kick outs, entries, posture, and many other elements that make up a dive. The basic fundamentals of diving need to be practiced on a continual basis. They are the key to consistent performances. Don’t just learn them once and forget them. If not every day, a least once a week should include a fundamental day. Chinese divers are so well schooled in fundamentals, that even when they have a bad dive, it still looks good.
Guess work in diving does not work. And too many divers use guess work when coming out of a dive. Why is gold medalist Matthew Mitcham such a good diver, one of the reasons is that he is very good at spotting. He learned this from his time as a world champion trampolinist. In trampoline, if you do not learn to visually spot during tricks, you will land on your head. Needless to say, landing on your head on trampoline is not really an acceptable practice. If a diver learns to use visual clues to know when to kick out, and those visual clues (such as the diving board) never change, then they will kick out at the precise time, each and every time.
Bad form is, well, less than appealing in diving. Diving is a sport of aesthetics, and the better a diver can look, the better the score will be. Good form makes a diver look good. That includes a variety of things from having a good toe point (see above), to a divers posture, to the way a diver carries themselves on the board. While it may seem important when you are increasing you degree of difficulty to score more points, it can make the difference between making the finals in Beijing, to winning the gold medal.
- It Ain’t over ‘till It’s Over
If you ever need an example of “don’t quit until he final dive,” Matthew Mitcham’s victory on platform is it. Heading into the final dive, Mitcham was down by over 30 points to China’s Zhou Luxin. Everybody but Mitcham had conceded the gold to Zhou. Mitcham’s final dive was a near perfect back 2 ½ with 2 ½ twists, and the Aussie heads home with the gold. Never stop believing until you see the final score. Never, never, never quit!