UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN KIDNAPPED by aliens and held captive on the planet Bongo for the past few years, you’ll know that the 2012 Summer Olympic Games are being staged in London from 27 July to 12 August. Some 205 nations are expected to take part in more than 300 events – including platform, high-board and springboard diving.
Divers and coaches throughout the country have been preparing for what is the zenith of their sport, with aspiring athletes pushing themselves beyond their physical and mental limits in training to achieve the one dream they all share – to represent their country in the most prestigious of all sporting occasions.
I joined Simon Lodge at the Crystal Palace Diving Club to find out how scuba-divers have become involved in helping these athletes achieve their goals.
Simon owns and runs Lodge Scuba Academy, with Crystal Palace sports arena as its base. In the summer of 2010 he was approached by Team GB diving regional coach Chris Snode to help with the development of his aspiring divers.

CHRIS EXPLAINED TO ME that although he could see and even record the divers from the time they started the dive, as soon as they hit the water he was blind to their performance.
“What we needed was to be able to record the entry from below the surface and then view and critique the technique before attempting to improve it on the next dive,” he said.
“The diver’s Holy Grail is to enter the water with a ‘rip’,” he explained. “Creating as little splash as possible will gain high scores, and this can be achieved by adopting the ‘flat-hand grab’ technique. This derives its name from the position of the hands. The palms face-up above the head create a flat or level surface, minimising the disturbance to the water surface and subsequent splash.”
Simon, armed with a camcorder in an underwater housing and his trusty old scuba unit, waits patiently at the bottom of the 6m dive pool, recording the divers as they hit the water.
He then exits and shares the footage with Chris and the divers, repeating the process for all their training dives.
Crystal Palace Diving Club also has a camcorder mounted by the side of the pool, with a delayed feed to a flat-screen monitor mounted by the exit steps. This enables the divers to instantly review the airborne portion of their last dive.
I visited the Palace during a training session involving two divers. Team GB members and Olympic hopefuls Robyn Birch (18) and Georgia Ward (17) already have a string of medals between them.
Georgia stole the show at last year’s ASA Diving Championships when, competing against 492 other entrants, she won no fewer than four gold medals in various disciplines.
Robyn, who had just won a part in the latest BMW 3 Series ad campaign, has won medals for her diving skills at national and international level, along with two golds for the 3m synchro and platform events at the National Youth Championships, a silver medal at the Senior National Championships and bronze at the Dresden Youth International event, all in 2011.

THE TWO ATHLETES were tireless in their training regime, constantly diving, exiting, reviewing and, along with their coach, critiquing their dives, before repeating the process all over again.
Georgia told me that she found the underwater footage to be an invaluable training aid, and also liked to review her “roll-out” technique as a safe way of avoiding making contact with the bottom of the pool.
“It gives us an edge over other divers,” she said. “To achieve a rip entry consistently is very difficult, but it’s been made so much easier with Simon’s help.”

EARLY HIGH DIVING
As DIVER went to press, the British Olympic team had yet to be announced, but I hope that these extremely talented athletes are included, and wish them luck in their pursuit of diving for gold.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a dive began the moment the water was touched. Now “diving” means the process of leaping and springing into water.
The UK’s first recorded diving championships were the Championships of Scotland in 1889, and involved diving from the side of the swimming pool, a dive from about 6ft, and a surface dive.
As high-diving became popular among a small circle of enthusiasts, in 1895 the National Graceful Diving Competition was introduced. Open to the world, it involved standing and running dives from 15 and 30ft.
In the late 1890s, Otto Hagborg and CF Mauritzi came from Sweden to London to introduce “fancy diving”. As pioneers such as Sir Claude Champion de Crispigny took it up, the Amateur Diving Association was formed in 1901.
Fancy dives were included in competition in 1903. There was a springboard event in the 1904 Olympic Games, and high diving was listed among sports at the supplementary Olympic Game in Athens in 1906. G Melville Clark represented Great Britain in the latter event.
Women’s diving first appeared in the Olympics in 1912, with a simple diving contest from the high board. Belle White won bronze for GB.
The first women’s springboard competition took place in 1920, but plain and fancy high-board diving for women was not introduced into the Olympics until 1928.
That year the two men’s high-board events – one plain, one fancy – were amalgamated into one competition.
Springboard diving at the 1924 Olympics had grown very complex. There were six methods of performing each dive – standing, running taking off with one foot, running taking off with two feet, and in each case the entry could be made with or without hands. The tariff was simplified and began to assume the form we know today.
For more than 30 years the Amateur Diving Association held its own championships and looked after divers’ interests. In 1935 it merged with the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) which, since 1936, has been responsible for championships and other diving-related matters.
Information by courtesy of the ASA

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