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What is a Legal Twisting Dive?

How FINA and High School Rules Differ

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Twisting Dive

Twisting Dive

Photo: Woody Franklin

Twisters can be a real pain! This especially holds true for twisting dives that have feet first entries. They can get out of control, and as any diver or coach can attest, if you don’t control the speed of your somersault, you can end up with a fail dive.

So the question comes up, how do you score a twisting dive? Really what this question boils down to is, what constitutes a fail dive when a diver under, or over twists on a dive.

FINA and the NCAA

According to FINA rules, those used by USA Diving and the AAU (this same rule is used for NCAA competitions), a fail dive occurs when the diver finishes the dive with a twist that is greater or less than that announced by 90 degrees or more, based on the last part of the body to enter the water.

To make this easier, let’s use an example. Since twisting dives that enter feet first are usually the most susceptible to fail dives, we will use a forward somersault with one twist:

  • Illegal Dive: The diver’s feet enter the water and they have completed one twist, but by the time the head goes under the water the diver has twisted an additional ¼ of a twist - the dive is fail.

    Why - The diver exceeded 90 degrees past one twist when the last part of the body entered the water.


  • Legal Dive: The diver’s feet enter the water and they have completed only 3/4 of the full twist. When the diver's head enters the water the full twist is complete – the dive is legal.

    Why - Despite being short of one twist when they hit the water, by the time the diver's head the full twist is complete.

I am sure this is as clear as mud, so let’s complicate it a bit more!

High School Rules

One of the biggest problems is that coaches, and judges sometimes confuse FINA rules with high school rules.

In high school, the rules governing twisting dives are dramatically different FINA. The 90 degree rule is the the same, but instead of the last part of the body to enter the water, it is the first part. If you hit the water and are within 90 degrees of the announced number of twists, the dive is legal. You can keep twisting until you are under the water, and the dive will still be legal.

Using the same example from above, here are two scenarios from a high school competition:

  • Legal Dive: The diver’s feet enter the water and they have completed one twist, but by the time the head goes under the water the diver has added an additional 1/4 of a twist - the dive is legal.

    Why - The diver had completed the one full twist when the first part of the body - the feet, entered the water.


  • Illegal Dive: The diver’s feet enter the water and they have completed only 3/4 of the twist. When the head enters the water, the diver has completed a full twist – the dive is illegal

    Why - The success of the dive is determined by the first body part to enter the water. Despite completing the twist by the time the head went under, only 3/4 of the twist was complete when the first part - the feet, entered.

Of course, a legal dive that over or under twists, whether it is in a high school or USA Diving competition, will not receive high scores, and those scores are dependent on how the judge views the dive. A dive that is technically legal, but adds an additional 1/2 twist would be considered deficient, but not fail. The important thing to remember here, is knowing why a twisting dive would be considered fail or not.

So, if you take anything away from this article, let it be the difference between high school and FINA/NCAA rules:

FINA/NCAA: A twisting dive is completed when the last body part goes under the water.

High School: A twisting dive is completed when the first part of the body enters the water.

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