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Greatest Moments in Olympic Diving

Biggest Upsets, Greatest Finishes and Dominant Performances


The biggest stage in the world seems to bring out outstanding performances, and there is no bigger stage than the Olympic Games. Here are some of the highlights from the diving competition over the past 100 years.

Albert White Wins Both Diving Events in Paris

American Albert White became the first diver to win both the springboard and platform titles at an Olympics in 1924. At 29 years-old and a Stanford University graduate, White led the U.S. to a sweep of both the springboard and platform medals and ushered in an era of dominance for the U.S. in Olympic diving.

Gestring and Hill Set Olympic Records in Berlin

1936 platform medalists Kathe Kohler (GER), Velma Clancy Dunn (USA) and Dorothy Poynton-Hill (USA)
Photo: Getty Images

At the tender age of 13 years, 265 days, Marjorie Gestring of the U.S. became the youngest athlete to win an Olympic medal win she captured the springboard title at the Olympic Games in 1936. To date she still holds that record and baring any rule changes, her accomplishment will likely stand the test of time. Sadly, Gestring would never return to the Olympics which were cancelled in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II. She failed to make the team in 1948.

Dorothy Poynton-Hill made her mark in Berlin when she became the first diver in Olympic history to win the same event in successive Olympics. She followed up her victory on platform in Los Angeles in 1932 with a second gold in Berlin.

Sammy Lee Wins Platform Gold in 1948 and 1952

Sammy Lee, an American of Korean descent, won the first of his two platform gold medals in 1948 in London. He returned four years later and became the first male to win a gold in the same event in consecutive Olympics. Lee was the first Asian-American male to win an Olympic medal and later went on to coach Olympic medalists Bob Webster and Greg Louganis, both of whom won the platform event in back-to-back games.

Pat McCormick Earns a Double-Double

Pat McCormick gave birth to a baby eight months before the Olympic Games but continued to train for the games up until two days before she gave birth. Not one to let a little thing like a pregnancy stop her, she won both the springboard and platform titles completing a “double-double,” winning both diving titles in consecutive Olympics. McCormick's daughter Kelley would make her own mark on the Olympics with springboard silver in 1984 and a bronze in 1988.

Ingrid Kramer Breaks the U.S. Stranglehold on Springboard

Heading into the Olympics in 1960 the U.S. had won eight straight women’s springboard titles. In fact, an American had won every springboard title since it became an Olympic event in 1920. That streak ended for the U.S. when East German teenager Ingrid Kraemer defeated Paula Pope of the U.S. and Elizabeth Ferris of Great Britain for the gold. Kraemer also won the platform title that year becoming only the third woman to win both the springboard and platform events in the same year. In 1964 competing under her married name of Engel-Kramer, she won her second springboard gold but fell short of the presitigous “double-double,” finishing second on platform to Lesley Bush of the U.S.

Milena Duchkova Captures Gold for Czechoslovakia

Despite protestations to the contrary, the Olympics always seem to become a political hotbed and this was never more evident than when a 16-year old Czechoslovakian diver by the name of Milena Duchkova faced off against Soviet diver Natalya Lobanova for the platform title in 1968. With tensions high because of Soviet military and political involvement in Czechoslovakia, Duchkova defeated Lobanova and Ann Peterson of the U.S. for the gold much to the delight of the partisan crowd. Four years later in Munich, Duchkova would finish second in platform and remains the only Czech diver to medal in diving.

Vladimir Vasin Breaks the U.S String in Springboard

Despite the distractions caused by the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, Vladimir Vasin of the Soviet Union snapped a streak of 11 straight gold medals by the U.S. His victory in the men’s springboard in Munich in 1972 came at the expense of silver medalist Franco Cagnotto of Italy who finished fifth in 1968, second in 1972 and 1976, and third in 1980.

Micki King Gets Redemption

Olympic Gold Medalist Micki King
Photo: USA Diving

In 1968 U.S. diver Micki King was in the lead of the women’s springboard competition when she hit the board on her ninth dive, a reverse 1 1/2 in layout, breaking her arm in the process. She completed the contest but dropped to fourth missing a medal. She returned in 1972 as a captain in the U.S Air Force with gold medal aspirations. Making it a point to avoid the diving board, King took the lead on her eighth dive and won the gold over Swedish sensation Ulrika Knape.

Klaus Dibiasi Wins His Third Consecutive Platform Title

In 1964 Klaus Dibiasi finished second in the platform event to two-time gold medalist Bob Webster of the U.S. Dibiasi, whose father competed in the 1936 Olympic diving competition, would rebound from that defeat to win the platform event in 1968 and again in 1972. In Montreal in 1976, Dibiasi made history by becoming the only diver to win the same event in three successive Olympic Games. Finishing second to Dibiasi was none other than Greg Louganis of the U.S. Louganis would then go on to win successive platform titles in 1984 and 1988. If not for the U.S. boycott in 1980, he may well have equaled Dibiasi’s feat.

Louganis Completes a Double-Double

Greg Louganis of the USA competes in Seoul
Photo: Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images
Greg Louganis swept the diving competition in 1984 and was the favorite to repeat in 1988 until a funny thing happened on the way to the medal ceremony - he hit his head on the board. Louganis' uncharacteristic gaff came in the preliminary round of the springboard competition and the injury coupled with his low scores on the dive put him in serious jeopardy of not advancing to the semi-finals. You don't get the title of the world's greatest diver for nothing, and Louganis hit his final dive in the prelims and won going away earning his second springboard gold medal.
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