Considered one of the marquee events in the Summer Olympic Games, springboard and platform diving has been a part of the Olympic program since 1904. The combination of grace and athleticism that comes with diving, has always made this sport an Olympic favorite, as it is sure to be at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Dramatic events such as Greg Louganis hitting the board in 1988, and the Greek duo of Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis winning the synchronized springboard title on their own turf in Athens, continue to punctuate this exciting Olympic event.
What Makes the Olympics So Unique
Is diving in the Olympics unique? The answer to this is yes, and no! Each of these athletes entered into the sport as any other prospective diver. Beginning with lessons at a young age, progressing in skill and dedication until they reached a level at which they can compete against the world’s best. So while they may appear to the uninitiated that these divers are performing super-human feats, each has had to learn the same solid fundamentals and diving techniques that every junior diver must learn to compete in a local competition. But the attention and pressure that this single event attracts, does make it stand head and shoulders above all other diving competitions.
What Will Happen in 2008
Long dominant in diving, the U.S. has slipped in recent years, but young talents such as Thomas Finchum and David Boudia, and veteran Laura Wilkinson, hope to give the Chinese divers a run for their money in Beijing. In recent years Australia and Canada have moved to the forefront of international diving along with Russia and Germany, but China showed it was not ready to roll over, winning seven of the eight Olympic events at the 2007 World Championships.
Since that first Olympic diving competition in 1904, the United States has dominated the medal count, winning 48 out of the 98 gold medals awarded. But the diving landscape has changed since 1988, with China becoming the dominant power. Since 1992, Chinese divers have won 17 out of the 24 gold medals awarded, and 29 of the 72 total medals.
There have been many divers who have won multiple golds, led by Dmitri Sautin of Russia and China's Fu Mingxia. Competing as a member of both the Unified and Russian Olympic teams, Sautin won two gold and seven medals overall over the course of four Olympic Games, from 1992 to 2004. Fu Mingxia earned four golds and a silver from 1992 to 2000, making her the most decorated female diver in Olympic history.
Two U.S. divers, Greg Louganis and Pat McCormick accomplished the coveted “double, double,” winning both the springboard and platform events in consecutive games. If not for the U.S. boycott of the games in 1980, Louganis might have had a “triple, triple.”
Olympic Competition Rules
The first Olympic diving program consisted of two events: men’s platform and men’s plunge for distance. Following the 1924 games, diving settled into the four major events that we now are familiar with: men’s and women’s springboard and platform. These four events remained unchanged until 2000 when synchronized diving was added.
- Current Olympic Diving Events
- Women’s Springboard
- Men’s Springboard
- Women’s Platform
- Men’s Platform
- Women’s Synchronized Springboard
- Men’s Synchronized Springboard
- Women’s Synchronized Platform
- Men’s Synchronized Platform
- Discontinued Olympic Diving Events
- Men’s Plain High Diving
- Men’s Plunge for Distance
About the Competition
The rules for diving in the Olympics are administrated by Fédération Internationale de Natation, the International Governing Body for Aquatics. More commonly known as FINA, these rules govern the sport of diving in all national and international competitions.
In individual Olympic diving competition, there are three rounds in which a diver must compete to be crowned a champion: the preliminaries, semi-finals, and finals. The preliminaries consist of the divers performing the harder, or optional dives. Following the preliminaries, the field of competitors is cut to 18 divers. In the semi-final round divers compete five easier, or voluntary dives, and the field is reduced again to 12 divers. The final round consists of the divers again performing a list of optional dives.
In synchronized diving, two divers perform a total of five dives, with the intent of mirroring the others performance. In the first two rounds of diving, divers perform dives with a limited degree of difficulty. In the remaining three dives there is no limit on degree of difficulty.
Judging Olympic Competition
In major international competitions, including the Olympic Games, seven judges score an individual diving contest. These judges must consider four elements of the dive: the approach, the takeoff, the flight of the dive, and the entry into the water. Dives are scored on a 0 to 10 basis, with 0 being a failed dive and 10 being perfect.
In synchronized diving, nine judges are used. Four of these judges, two for each diver, score the execution and technique of each dive. The remaining five judge the synchronization of the pair, basing their scores on how the two divers mirror height, distance from the springboard or platform, speed of rotation and entry into the water.