Diving 101: Olympic History

Diving 101: Olympic History
Posted at 9:27 AM, Mar 11, 2021

Rio de Janeiro, 2016 
For the second time in three Games, China came within one event of sweeping the Olympic diving program. One-half of the gold medal-winning synchronized springboard team, Wu Minxia, became Olympic champion for the fourth consecutive time in the event, a first for Olympic diving. Wu dove beside Shi Tingmao, her third synchro partner in that time. The British duo of Jack Laugher and Chris Mears disrupted the Chinese dominance in the men’s synchronized springboard event. 

The U.S. managed only a pair of synchro silvers in Rio: Sam Dorman and Michael Hixon on springboard, and David Boudia and Steele Johnson on the platform. 

London, 2012 
The United States saw its most successful Games in 24 years, bagging four medals. Team USA's David Boudia topped the podium in the men's individual 10m platform, becoming the first American to win the event since Greg Louganis' back-to-back wins in 1984 and 1988. The Americans' other medals came in the men's synchronized 10m (bronze) and 3m synchronized springboard (bronze). The final American medal came from Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston, who picked up silver in the synchronized 3m - the first-ever American medal in the event. 

SEE MORE: Get to know Olympic hopeful David Boudia

Beijing, 2008 
China dominated the diving competition at the 2008 Olympics, winning seven of the eight events contested. One silver and three bronze medals yielded a total medal haul of 11, a far cry from second-place Russia (five). The bright spot for the international field was Matthew Mitcham's performance in the men's 10m. The Australian beat Zhou Luxin for gold, stopping a Chinese sweep in front of its home fans. The best finish for an American at the Games was a pair of fourth place finishes in the 3m synchro events: Chris Colwill/Jevon Tarantino and Kelci Bryant/Ariel Rittenhouse. 

Athens, 2004 
The Greek synchronized diving team of Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis took advantage of an extraordinary string of failed dives by some of the world's best to claim a stunning gold medal on the 3m. The Greek duo had no chance at a medal - let alone gold - until dives unraveled for the leaders on their fifth and final dives. The Chinese team of Peng Bo and Wang Kenan, leaders after four dives, scored a zero when Wang could not complete the final dive, a forward 2-1/2 somersault pike with two twists. China's gaffe opened the door for the world champion Russian team of Dmitri Sautin and Aleksandr Dobroskok. But on their dive - a reverse 2-1/2 somersault pike with 1-1/2 twists - Sautin clipped the board with his feet and barely completed his maneuver. The U.S. team of Justin and Troy Dumais needed an 81.94 on their last dive, but recorded a disastrous 55.65 to fall out of medal contention. 

In addition to host Greece's upset win in the men's synchronized 3m, Australia's Chantelle Newberry became her country's first female to win individual diving gold when she took the 10m platform title. Defending champion Laura Wilkinson finished fifth and the U.S. failed to earn a diving medal for the first time since 1912. 

Sydney, 2000 
The addition of four synchronized events for the Sydney program helped enable China to set a record for diving golds at a single Games. In Sydney, Chinese divers won five of the eight events. More impressive, the tally included gold from three of the four individual events, excluding women's platform. 

In a stunning upset, Laura Wilkinson came from nowhere to win the women's platform. In the process, she broke China's four-Olympics stranglehold in the event and won America's only diving medal of the 2000 Games. Prior to Sydney, Wilkinson, 22, had never finished better than fifth at a major international event. Beginning the final in eighth place, the always-smiling Houstonian made up 23 points on the leader, Li Na of China, to earn the unexpected gold. 

Atlanta, 1996 
After a disappointing fifth-place finish in the springboard ended favored Dmitry Sautin's hopes of becoming the first non-American man to win both the springboard and the platform titles, the "Russian Gladiator" roared back to salvage gold in the platform. The 22-year-old, who competed with an injured left wrist, trailed Germany's Jan Hempel by less than three points after the semifinal, but took the lead on the first of six final dives and never looked back. In a finishing flourish, the Russian scored the only perfect 10 of the event on his final dive. 

With a dominant performance on platform in Barcelona, 13-year-old Fu Mingxia of China became the fourth-youngest Olympian ever to win a gold medal. Needing a new challenge for Atlanta, the teenager dedicated herself to winning both the springboard and platform. An inch taller and almost 20 pounds heavier than she was in Spain, Fu won both events to become the first woman since Germany's Ingrid Kraemer in 1960 to complete the sweep. 

Barcelona, 1992 
With the brilliance of Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia cathedral as a backdrop, 16-year-old Sun Shuwei of China starred, becoming the youngest diver to win a men's Olympic title. With Greg Louganis retired, Sun, the pre-Games favorite, took the lead on the fourth dive of the final and never relinquished it. American Mark Lenzi succeeded Louganis as springboard champion. 

Seoul, 1988 
Greg Louganis became the second diver (first man) to sweep the springboard and platform titles at back-to-back Games. But unlike in 1984, this double was difficult. On his ninth dive of the springboard preliminary round, he struck the board with the back of his head, opening a gash that required four stitches. The fortitude Louganis showed wasn't truly understood by most observers until six years later, when he went public with the fact that he was HIV-positive at the time. In the final, after opening a 20-point lead, Louganis had to repeat the dive on which he was injured: a reverse 2 1/2 somersault in the pike position. Clearing the board with room to spare, he went on to win gold. A week later, in the platform final, Louganis nailed his toughest dive, a reverse 3 1/2 somersault, to edge China's Xiong Ni by 1.14 points for his fourth Olympic title. 

Los Angeles, 1984 
After an upbringing mired by conflict and substance abuse, by the 1980’s California native Greg Louganis had managed to become one of the top divers in the world. The U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games robbed Louganis of an opportunity to perform on the Olympic stage, so the 1984 Games in his home state carried extraordinary pressure to deliver. Louganis indeed delivered, first by winning the springboard event by an Olympic record margin, then by comfortably winning the platform event to complete his first Olympic double. 

Moscow, 1980 
Controversy emerged from the Moscow men's springboard competition when eventual winner Aleksandr Portnov of the Soviet Union was allowed to repeat a dive because of crowd noise. That drew the ire of several other divers, particularly East Germany's Falk Hoffmann, whose own request for a re-dive, on the grounds that he was distracted by a photographer's flash, was denied. Hoffman finished fourth and thus is absent from a medal ceremony delayed two days while officials sorted out the protests. Hoffmann wasn't shut out entirely, though. He took home the platform gold. 

Montreal, 1976 
Jennifer Chandler, a 17-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama, had burst onto the scene a year earlier, winning the 1975 Pan American Games. Against tougher competition in Montreal, she did not wilt, surprising a field that included two former world champions to become America's 10th different winner of women's springboard gold. 

Munich, 1972 
Italian Klaus Dibiasi, whose father competed at the 1936 Olympics, became the third man to repeat as Olympic platform champion with an easy victory in Munich. Four years later in Montreal, Dibiasi, the first Italian ever to strike Olympic gold in swimming or diving, became the first - and still only - diver to win the same event three times. 

Mexico City, 1968 
Two months after Soviet-led forces brought a violent end to the Prague Spring - Czechoslovakia's attempt at socialism "with a human face" - a Czechoslovakian and a Soviet dueled for women's platform gold at the 1968 Olympics. Buoyed by support from the Mexican crowd, diminutive 16-year-old Czech Milena Duchkova edged Natalya Lobanova with two clutch final dives. Duchkova, who added a platform silver in Munich, remains the only Czech diver to climb an Olympic podium. 

Tokyo, 1964 
In the women’s platform, with Ingrid Kraemer on the brink of a second consecutive sweep of springboard and platform at the Olympics, an American teenager threw a wrench in the plan. Seventeen-year-old Lesley Bush of Princeton, New Jersey, took the lead on her first dive and completed a wire-to-wire victory. Today, Bush would not have even gotten the opportunity, as she finished third in the U.S. Olympic Trials. Only top-two is good enough under the current rules. 

Rome, 1960 
In Rome, Ingrid Kraemer, an East German teenager, became the first non-American woman to win an Olympic springboard title. After breaking a streak of eight straight U.S. victories in that event, Kraemer made it four consecutive Games at which a woman completed the platform/springboard golden double. 

Melbourne, 1956 
A competition marked by controversy saw Mexico's Joaquin Capilla Perez - who'd won platform bronze in 1948 and silver in 1952 - snare gold in Melbourne with a spectacular final dive. American Gary Tobian, the eventual silver medalist, carried the lead into the final round, but Capilla delivered on a forward 1 1/2 somersault with a double twist to win by 0.03 points. The U.S. team protested the final result on the grounds that Soviet and Hungarian judges were biased, a charge even Capilla legitimized. As a result of the controversy, it was decided that judges can be eliminated because of incompetence in future competitions. 

Helsinki, 1952 
After failing to qualify for the 1948 Olympic team by 0.01 points, Californian Pat McCormick went to Helsinki and dominated, giving the U.S. its seventh straight women's springboard and sixth straight women's platform titles. Four years later, just eight months after giving birth, McCormick repeated the feat, becoming the only woman in history to complete diving's "double-double." 

London, 1948 
At the first post-war Olympics, 28-year-old Korean-American Army doctor Sammy Lee won the first of his two consecutive platform gold medals. Lee, who added a springboard bronze in London, also showed his medical prowess after teammate Miller Anderson was slightly injured on a platform dive. Lee provided first aid before Anderson was taken to the hospital and kept overnight. Lee, the first Asian-American man to win an Olympic medal, later coached Bob Webster to gold medals in 1960 and 1964 and Greg Louganis to a silver medal in 1976. 

Berlin, 1936 
Winning the women's springboard title in Berlin at the age of 13 years, nine months, California's Marjorie Gestring became the youngest person in summer Games history to win individual gold. However, because World War II caused the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Games, the youngest champion remained a one-time champion. Gestring tried to qualify as a 25-year-old in 1948, but failed to make the American team. 

Los Angeles, 1932 
Frank Kurtz grew up in Missouri, but as a 14-year-old determined to make it as a diver, he hitchhiked to Los Angeles. Seven years later, in his adopted hometown, Kurtz won Olympic bronze as part of a U.S. medal sweep on platform. After the Games, he joined the Army and went on to become one of World War II's most famous fighter pilots. Known for flying the last surviving B-17 Flying Fortress, which was nicknamed "The Swoose," Kurtz later named his daughter - who went on to acting fame - Swoosie Kurtz. 

Amsterdam, 1928 
Pete Desjardins, winner of the springboard competition, appeared to fall short of duplicating Albert White's springboard/platform double four years earlier. But after Farid Simaika was awarded the platform gold and his Egyptian national anthem played, a scoring error was discovered, giving Desjardins the title. The incident had no ill effect on relations between the 5-foot-3 Desjardins, known as "The Little Bronze Statue from Florida," and Simaika; they later toured Europe together in professional diving exhibitions. 

Paris, 1924 
Albert White, a 29-year-old from Northern California, became the first person in Olympic history to win the platform and springboard events at the same Games. However, White did not make a clean sweep of the competition because Australia's Dick Eve took the last Olympic title awarded in the plain high-dive (no twists or somersaults) event. 

Antwerp, 1920 
At 14 years old and 4-foot-7, Aileen Riggin of the U.S. was small in stature and experience but came up big in Belgium, winning the inaugural women's Olympic springboard competition. The gold medal was the first of many impressive accomplishments for the Rhode Island native, who, in addition to winning Olympic diving and swimming medals in 1924, went on to act in several motion pictures and became one of the first American female sportswriters. 

Stockholm, 1912 
Women's platform diving premiered, and the home team took advantage of the locale, taking the top two spots in the first competition and seven of the top eight. Greta Johanson, 17, won the gold as the unanimous choice of the five judges, and countrywoman Lisa Regnell got the silver. Isobel White of Great Britain finished third but was followed by Swedes in positions 4-8. 

London, 1908 
Sweden's Hjalmar Johansson took home the gold medal in the second Olympic platform competition but was equally admired for his out-of-competition heroics. After British diver George Cane was knocked unconscious while attempting a double somersault, Johansson jumped into the pool and pulled his competitor to safety. Because of the Cane incident and several other injuries, there were calls for reforms to prohibit double somersaults. 

St. Louis, 1904 
Diving was introduced as an Olympic sport in St. Louis, although not all of the participants were on the same page when it came to the rules. American George Sheldon took home the first gold, in men's platform, but Germany protested the victories of Sheldon and U.S. bronze winner Frank Kehoe, claiming that the way a diver hits the water should be irrelevant to one's score.