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Tomb of the DiverPaestumItaly, a Greek fresco dated 470 BC

At the moment of take-off, two critical aspects of the dive are determined, and cannot subsequently be altered during the execution. One is the trajectory of the dive, and the other is the magnitude of the angular momentum.

The speed of rotation – and therefore the total amount of rotation – may be varied from moment to moment by changing the shape of the body, in accordance with the law of conservation of angular momentum.

The center of mass of the diver follows a parabolic path in free-fall under the influence of gravity (ignoring the effects of air resistance, which are negligible at the speeds involved)


Although diving has been a popular pastime across the world since ancient times, the first modern diving competitions were held in England in the 1880s. The exact origins of the sport are unclear, though it likely derives from the act of diving at the start of swimming races.[2][3] The 1904 book Swimming by Ralph Thomas notes English reports of plunging records dating back to at least 1865.[4] The 1877 edition to British Rural Sports by John Henry Walsh makes note of a “Mr. Young” plunging 56 feet in 1870, and also states that 25 years prior, a swimmer named Drake could cover 53 feet.[5]

The English Amateur Swimming Association (at the time called the Swimming Association of Great Britain) first started a “plunging championship” in 1883.[6][7] The Plunging Championship was discontinued in 1937.

Fancy diving

Diving into a body of water had also been a method used by gymnasts in Germany and Sweden since the early 19th century. The soft landing allowed for more elaborate gymnastic feats in midair as the jump could be made from a greater height. This tradition evolved into ‘fancy diving’, while diving as a preliminary to swimming became known as ‘Plain diving’.

In England, the practice of high diving – diving from a great height – gained popularity; the first diving stages were erected at the Highgate Ponds at a height of 15 feet in 1893 and the first world championship event, the National Graceful Diving Competition, was held there by the Royal Life Saving Society in 1895. The event consisted of standing and running dives from either 15 or 30 feet.

It was at this event that the Swedish tradition of fancy diving was introduced to the sport by the athletes Otto Hagborg and C F Mauritzi. They demonstrated their acrobatic techniques from the 10m diving board at Highgate Pond and stimulated the establishment of the Amateur Diving Association in 1901, the first organization devoted to diving in the world (later amalgamated with the Amateur Swimming Association). Fancy diving was formally introduced into the championship in 1903.[8][9]

Olympic era

Swedish high diver Arvid Spångberg at the 1908 Olympic Games from the fourth Olympiad.

Plain diving was first introduced into the Olympics at the 1904 event. The 1908 Olympics in London added ‘fancy diving’ and introduced elastic boards rather than fixed platforms. Women were first allowed to participate in the diving events for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.[8]

In the 1928 Olympics, ‘plain’ and ‘fancy’ diving was amalgamated into one event – ‘Highboard Diving’. The diving event was first held indoors in the Empire Pool for the 1934 British Empire Games and 1948 Summer Olympics in London.

Springboard Diving

  • Six dives should be completed by men, five by women
  • Dives can be performed of any difficulty level
  • One dive during the contest must come from each of five different categories (forward, back, reverse, inward, twisting)
  • Men may repeat one of the categories for their sixth dive, women may not
  • Each dive must be different, meaning no dive can be repeated

Platform diving & Synchronized Springboard

  • Men complete six dives, women complete five
  • For both men and women, the first two dives must have a difficulty level of 2.0
  • The remaining dives for both men and women can be of any difficulty level
  • Both men and women must complete dives from at least four different categories with at least one of the dives being forward facing