History of diving
Like swimming, diving has been practiced for thousands of years. The first historical record of diving, dated 480 B.C., is a painting of a male diver found in a burial chamber to the south of Naples, Italy. Modern competitive diving began in Great Britain in 1883 with the first “plunging” competition. Plunging consisted of a dive similar to a modern race dive, with the goal to travel – motionless and face down – as far up the pool as possible. The first diving competition similar to today’s diving was held in Scotland in 1889. Men’s diving events were added to the Olympic program at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Women’s events were added in 1912.
China on the rise
While the United States is the all-time medal leader in diving at the Olympics, there is no question who is the preeminent power these days—China. Despite only winning their first diving medal in 1984, the Chinese have amassed so many medals since the Los Angeles Games that they rank second on the all-time medals chart for diving. In the past four Olympics, Chinese divers have won 40 of a possible 48 medals, including 24 of a possible 32 gold medals. China nearly swept all eight gold medals at home in 2008 had it not been for Australia’s Matthew Mitcham, who won the men’s platform. China has shown no signs of slowing down, claiming seven of the eight world titles in Olympic events at the 2013 World Championships.
Divers leaping from the platform during the Olympics can make it look effortless, but the pounding on their body during competition can be intense. In the men’s and women’s platform competitions, divers jump from 10 meters, or just over 32 feet, into the water 18 times during competition (six in each of the preliminary, semifinal and final rounds). That’s like jumping from a three-story building or stacking four soccer goals on top of each other and jumping from the top. To mitigate the impact of such dives, bubble machines in the pool produce air bubbles in the water that decrease the surface tension of the water.