You can't do a good dive without a good hurdle. It's kind of like trying to start a car without the keys - it doesn't happen unless you're really good! There are many integral parts of a hurdle ... the last step, the armswing, the timing, etc. Each part is important, including the actual hurdle and jump. Here are some key tips to help improve this aspect of springboard diving.
The knee is part of the driving force of the forward hurdle in diving. As the diver moves the knee upward, it helps to lift the body off the board (in tandem with the armswing) and gain height. But it also gives direction to the hurdle. Get lazy with the knee, and you will find yourself leaning too far forward, or with not enough height to execute the dive. Here is the tip – drive the knee up to at least a 90 degree angle with the body, the higher the better. Look left at Justin and Troy Dumais, there is a reason they are Olympians.
2. Drop Your Knee at the Top
A diver needs to land with two feet on the end of the board. It’s a rule. And besides, it's a lot harder to do your dives with a one-footed take-off. Question: To do this a diver must drop the hurdle knee, but when should the knee drop? Answer: As soon as it has reached its highest point and is at least perpendicular with the body. A key to remember here is that the rise and fall of the knee in the hurdle should be a strong, smooth motion that helps the diver time his or her bounce on the board. The absolute master of this was four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Greg Louganis who used a simple hurdle to perfection!
3. Stretch Your Fingertips, Point Your Toes
Once you have lifted your hurdle leg and are headed to the highest point of the jump, continue to stretch your arms and hands toward the ceiling and point your toes to the board. This accomplishes two things. First, it helps to get every bit of height possible out of the jump, as China's Guo Jingjing demonstrates in the image. Second, it helps maintain posture and balance. In a proper hurdle, the body should be stretched so that the body is as long as possible. If your posture and balance get sloppy, bad things can happen, namely a smack!
4. Grab The Bar
Sometimes a bit of imagery helps a diver understand a concept, such as stretching fingertips to the ceiling and toes to the board. So to visualize this concept, a diver can pretend that an imaginary bar exists at the top of his or hurdle. The bar is set at a height that is just high enough that they can reach it, but only if they stretch out as much as possible. So in the imaginary hurdle the diver lifts the hurdle leg and jumps, grabs the bar at the very top of the hurdle, then lets go and drops to the end of the board to finish the forward approach. Doesn't it look like that is exactly what five-time Olympic Medal winner Fu Minxia of China is doing?
5. Three Points – Ankles, Hips, Shoulders
Three points in the body, the ankles, the hips, and the shoulders should be in a straight line (or as close to it as possible) at the top of the hurdle. Why does this matter? If these three points are not aligned, the chances are pretty good that a diver will not have balance and control during the armswing and takeoff. The result, a less than spectacular dive. This line does not necessarily need to be vertical, but if you connect the dots, the line should be straight, just like the Greek synchro team that competed at the 2009 FINA Grand Prix.
6. Move the Hips Forward
As the diver drops the knee and the fingertips stretch to the ceiling and toes to the board, move the hips forward to eliminate a bend, or pike in the body position. Using another example of imagery; picture an imaginary wall in front of the board and the diver attempts to place their body flat against the wall as they stretch up in the hurdle. In an improper hurdle where the hips move backwards, the diver would only have the hands and feet touching the wall. I doubt that Peng Bo had that problem when he won his gold in Atlanta!