The sport of diving made its debut at the 1904 Olympic Games held in St. Louis. Although referred to as platform diving, the event contested in 1904 known as “high diving” was actually a combination of springboard and platform dives. The winner of that inaugural event was an American by the name of George Sheldon and as luck would have it, the first event was full of controversy.
The Americans and Germans, who were the only competitors in the event, were at odds over what constituted a proper dive. The Germans, who crashed onto their stomach and chests on many of their dives, felt that the difficulty of the dive took importance. The Americans on the other hand believed that the entry was the most important. So you had the Germans smacking on harder dives and the Americans performing easier dives with better entries. Protests were filed but in the end Sheldon’s victory was upheld and the U.S. had its first medal.
It would not be the last controversy for diving.
From 1912 to 1928 divers were ranked by ordinals. Similar to the scoring used by figure skating before 2002, judges would rank divers according to how they believed they finished. Two judges might rank a diver as finishing first with one believing they finished second. The winner was determined by the diver with the lowest total ordinals.
This method of scoring was changed for the 1932 Los Angeles games and to date Olympic diving finishes have been based on the total number of points scored by a diver for all the dives performed.