A Look Inside The Numbers As Divers Prepare To Make A (Tiny) Splash In Tokyo

by Karen Price

David Boudia poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 21, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.


Inside the Numbers presented by DeVry is a series that gives fans a peek at the numbers behind what it takes to qualify for Team USA and other incredible facts about Team USA sports.


For years, Olympic diving has fascinated spectators who marvel at the way in which the athletes leap into the air, contort their bodies and then disappear into the water.
The fact that some do it from a platform so high up lots of people wouldn’t feel comfortable just standing on it, and others do it perfectly timed with another human, make it even more thrilling.
The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Diving will be held June 6-13 in Indianapolis. To get you ready here’s a by-the-numbers look at the sport. 
Divers compete in four events at the Olympics: 3-meter springboard, synchronized 3-meter springboard, 10-meter platform and synchronized 10-meter platform. Diving was first introduced in the Olympics in 1904 in St. Louis, where an American diver named George Sheldon took gold in 10-meter platform. Women first competed in platform diving in 1912 and the springboard in 1920. 
There are also four basic body positions that divers take in the air, and they are lettered. A) Straight, B) Pike, C) Tuck and D) Free. A straight is as it sounds. A pike is where the diver is bent in at the waist with straight legs. A tuck has the diver pulling their legs into their chest. The free is used only in twisting dives and can be a combination of the other three. 
Greg Louganis became the first man to sweep the diving events at consecutive Olympics when he won both the platform and the springboard in 1984 and again in 1988. He also won a silver medal in the 10-meter when he made his Olympic debut in 1976. Only one other person has swept both medals in back-to-back Olympics, and that’s American Pat McCormick. She won both in 1952 and 1956. 


Dives are classified and numbered by the position the diver takes off from: 1. Forward, 2. Backward, 3. Reverse, 4. Inward, 5. Twist and 6. Armstand. The armstand entry is only used on the platform. If you ever goofed around at a pool as a kid you probably did forward and backward dives. Inward dives begin with the diver facing the board and then rotating toward the board. Reverse dives also rotate toward the board but the diver starts facing forward. Twists include any dive where that motion is included, and can be forward, backward, reverse or inward. Armstands take the scary quotient in platform diving to a whole new level because the diver starts from a handstand balanced on the edge of the platform. Scores are based on take-off, flight, entry (there was no splash!) and the difficulty of the moves during flight.


This will be the seventh time that Indianapolis has hosted the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Diving (also in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2008, 2016). The trials will be held at the Indiana University Natatorium on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus. 


Although you’ll see some cliff divers jumping off higher spots, Olympic divers leap from a maximum height of 10 meters. If you don’t want to do the math, that’s like jumping from 33 feet, or the equivalent of a three-story building. If you don’t want to do the physics (and thankfully others did), a diver is traveling at about 35 miles per hour when he or she hits the water after jumping off the platform. 


The U.S. secured the maximum two quota spots for each individual event in Tokyo, as well as for three of the four synchronized events. The only event in which the U.S. will not compete is the men’s synchronized 10-meter. 


The Fédération Internationale De Natation, or FINA, is the governing body of swimming and diving, and their recommended depth of the pool into which divers will plunge is five meters, or about 16 feet.


According to the Olympics history database Olympedia, the United States tops the all-time leaderboard in Olympic diving medals with 48 gold, 43 silver and 44 bronze medals. China is the next closest nation with 69.


Synchronized diving didn’t become an Olympic event until Sydney in 2000. Whereas seven judges watch individual diving events, 11 watch the synchronized events. Six watch the individual performances and five watch for the synchronized elements, including their height, how they move together in the air, the angle at which they hit the water and when they hit the water. 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Team USA logo

Follow Us


United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee
  • Accessibility
  • Finance , opens in a new tab
  • Governance , opens in a new tab
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Site Map

© 2024 United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. All Rights Reserved.