Diving takes physical, mental resilience

When thinking of the term ‘diving,’ the first thing that usually comes to mind is an image of someone dressed in a wetsuit high above a pool, intently looking down to where their body will be landing in a few seconds. While it may seem like an easy sport that requires little effort, diving has some of the most physically fit and well-trained athletes out there. Beyond the physical rigor, there are many other factors to consider when preparing for a diving competition—the diver must be both emotionally and mentally fit when entering the board. Even with a stable body, an unstable mind can throw their whole routine off-balance and ultimately conclude in disappointing results.

Typical diving competitions can range from platform diving anywhere from a foot above the water to as high as 32.8 feet up. Springboard diving—where the average height is three to nine feet above the water—involves a large steel spring to assist in lift from the board. There are both individual diving and team diving.

Team diving has been an Olympic sport since the Games of the III Olympiad in 1904. The most popular form of team diving is a synchronized event where two divers try to dive exactly the same as each other all the way to the water. While watching these divers can be very entertaining, the task itself is extremely hard to successfully accomplish. Diving may look effortless, but there is a careful series of coordinated bends, twists and spins that are constantly practiced so the divers move like a well-oiled machine.

Technically, falling off the board in anyway can be considered a dive. There are six different diving types, however, that are typically recognized in standard practices: a forward group, a backward group, a reverse group, an inward group, a twisting group, and the arm stand group.

Imagine being 30 feet high looking away from where you’ll be landing and then slowly falling backward with nobody to catch you––you can see why the sport is mentally exhausting. Divers must ensure everything is done correctly, as they face rigorous judging from a panel of seven judges who give them a score between zero and 10 for each dive performed. While judges analyze all parts of a dive, they focus the most on how well and high the diver jumps off the board or platform, how high the diver moves through the air and how they enter the water.

These scores are then added up, either on an individual basis or team basis. Diving is a careful game of calculations—even a slight error can result in major consequences, including career-ending injuries. During platform diving, divers are typically falling at a rate of nearly 40 miles per hour. Hitting the water in the wrong way can be nearly as harmful as hitting solid ground at that speed.

After months—if not years—of practice, you can only hope to have everything perfected and to have the most satisfying result: holding a gold medal in your hand.