Fancy Olympic dives or platform diving became an official event in men’s swimming in the 1904 Olympic Games. Springboard diving was introduced four years later in the 1908 Games. In those days, there were 20 springboard and 14 platform dives, according to Ron O’Brien, a coach of elite Olympic divers, on the USA Diver website. To perform a dive with two somersaults off a platform was a risky affair in 1904. The sport of diving has advanced dramatically. Today, you can perform 85 platform dives as well as execute a dive involving 3 1/2 somersaults without flaws, says O’Brien.
There are six types of dives, also called groups: forward, backward, reverse, inward, twisting and arm stand. In the first group, a diver faces the board’s front 4 1/2 somersaults. In the backward group, begin the dive on the board’s front edge with your back to the water. When you dive, rotate away from the board. Previously called gainers, reverse dives start with you facing the board’s front, and then you rotate toward the board. The inward group involves dives in which you stand on the board’s edge with your back to the water and then turn toward the board. All dives that employ various twists, such as forward, backward, inward and reverse, belong to the twisting group. The last group is the arm stand group in which you begin a dive from a platform’s edge in the handstand position.
When you perform an Olympic dive, you can use one of four body positions -- pike, straight, tuck or free. In the pike position, your body is folded at the waist and your legs are fully extended. The position resembles a jackknife. If you don’t bend your knees or waist, the dive is considered straight. In the tuck position, you crunch your body into a cannonball shape. With knees and waist flexed, you pull your thighs up to your waist. Knit your knees and feet together and point your toes. For a free dive, you perform a twisting dive that uses any of the three other positions or even a combination of positions.
You can describe dives by name, such as a reverse 2 1/2 somersault with a twist, or by number. While most dives require three digits, twist dives use four. Each digit in the sequence of numbers is an identifier. The first digit reveals the group as follows: 1 -- forward, 2 -- back, 3 -- reverse, 4 -- inward, 5 -- twisting and 6 -- free. For the dives in the first four groups, if the second digit is a 1, it’s a flying action, according to USA Diving. If it’s a zero, then there’s no flying action. The third number is the sum of the number of half somersaults. For example, if the third digit is a 9, the dive has 4 1/2 somersaults. The fourth digit is the sum of the number of half twists. A letter following the numbers indicates body position as follows: A -- straight, B -- pike, C -- tuck and D -- free. So if the dive’s number is 5151B, it’s a forward dive with 2 1/2 somersaults and a twist in pike position.
When two divers of the same gender perform identical or similar dives at the same time, it’s called synchronized, or synchro, diving. Synchro diving was recognized as an Olympic sport in the 2000 Games, according to USA Diving. Both divers are judged by a panel of nine on both the quality of their individual dives and on their ability to synchronize their dives with each other. For platform diving, the divers begin from the opposite sides of the platform. For a springboard event, each diver has his own board.
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