What is Olympic Diving?

olympic diving

Diving is a competitive or recreational aquatic sport that involves jumping and falling into water from a platform or springboard. Typically, diving includes performing acrobatics mid-air that may be scored by judges. It can be both an individual sport or a synchronized performance by a team of two. Diving is a very popular sport worldwide and has been recognized as an Olympic sport since 1904. Diving is regulated internationally by FINA, or the Fédération Internationale de Natation.


Diving History

Diving has been a popular recreational sport since the ancient times, so its origins are unclear. However, the competitive nature of the sport has developed over modern times. The technique began as a way to enter the water for swim races and has since evolved into its own sport altogether. Originally referred to as “plunging” or “fancy diving,” the sport itself began to fully develop by the 19th century when it became popular amongst gymnasts in Germany and Sweden.

Olympic diving debuted at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis. The springboard and platform equipment used today were introduced in the 1908 Olympics. Many parts of the sport have changed over time, including the height of dives, scoring parameters, and difficulty of dives performed.

Playing Surface

Diving Pool

Diving should only be done in a facility properly suited for the sport. The diving pool should be at least 60 feet in length, approximately 76 feet in width, and 12 feet deep. Diving is done from either a springboard at 1 or 3 meters high, or a platform at 10 meters high. Many professional facilities will have larger pools and multiple platforms available.

For safety, the bottom of the pool needs to be a dark color such as black or blue and the walls must be a light color such as white. This is required to ensure that divers do not lose their bearings during the rotation of their dives.


Diving Equipment

What equipment is needed to start diving? The short answer is not much!

Unlike other sports, diving doesn’t require a lot of individual equipment in order to participate. In most cases, diving equipment such as the platform or springboard will be provided by the pool or training facility that divers use. However, there are some pieces of equipment that are necessary for divers to have.

First, divers should also have a proper competitive swimsuit, such as a body skin or speedo. Additionally, some divers choose to wear optional swim caps or eye-wear when diving. A shammy is a small and very absorbent towel used by divers to dry themselves or the surface of the springboard when diving. Finally, divers will need a bag suitable for carrying their clothing, swimwear, towels, and other items.

Equipment and apparel needed for diving includes:

  • Pool
  • Platform / Springboard
  • Swimwear (Speedo, body skin, etc.)
  • Shammy / Aqua towel
  • Gear bag

Optional equipment includes:

  • Swim cap
  • Goggles
  • Hot tub / Showers


Diving Gameplay

In diving competitions, the goal is to score more total points for your series of dives than competitors. Divers will submit a list of their dives beforehand and each dive will be assigned a degree of difficulty from 1.2 to 4.8. The athletes will then perform each dive and be rated by a set of judges on a scale of 1 to 10. Judges scores are based on the approach, take-off, elevation, execution, and entry of each dive.

Typically, the two high and low scores from judges will be discarded and the remaining scores will be added together. This total is multiplied by the dive’s degree of difficulty to provide an overall score. Divers will perform their listed dives throughout the competition and receive a score each time. The individual and team’s overall performance will then be calculated by summing the scores of each dive to decide a winner.

Position Roles and Responsibilities

diving position roles and responsibilities

Diving does not specify positions to each participant because it is generally an individual sport. Each diver is responsible for practicing and executing their own dives. However, an individual’s score will contribute to the team’s overall score. Synchronized diving requires two divers to perform identical dives simultaneously, so the only difference in their roles is whether the diver is located to the left or right of their partner.

Rules and Regulations

diving rules and regulations

The rules in diving are surprisingly pretty straightforward! However, there are a few rule differences between platform and springboard competitions. It is important for divers to understand the rules in order to avoid disqualification or unnecessary point reductions. These are some of the most important rules and regulations of diving:

Men must complete 6 divesMen must complete 6 dives
Women must complete 5 divesWomen must complete 5 dives
At least 1 dive must come from each of the 5 categories. (Forward, backward, reverse, inward, twisting)Only for men, At least 1 dive must come from each of the 5 categories. (Forward, backward, reverse, inward, twisting)
Men can repeat one of the categories for their sixth dive, but women cannot.No category can be repeated in a list of dives.
Each dive must be different, meaning no dive can be repeated in the same competition.Each dive must be different, meaning no dive can be repeated in the same competition.
All dives must be performed on the 3 meter springboard. All dives must be performed on the 10 meter platform.

Diving Judges

Diving Judges

In Olympic diving, there are 7 judges to score each dive. It is also common in other competitions to have 5 or more judges, but no less. Judges should possess in-depth knowledge and experience in competitive diving to properly understand the technique and score the execution of each dive. They are not allowed to use replays and must use only their eye-sight and memory to rate dives.

The judges score each dive on a 1 to 10 scale using whole or half points. The score they give is based on the approach, take-off, elevation, execution, and entry of each dive. After all the judges give their scores, the two highest and lowest scores will be discarded in Olympic diving. If there are only 5 judges, the highest and lowest scores will only be discarded. The remaining judge’s scores will be added to create a total. Each dive’s “degree of difficulty” is determined beforehand and then multiplied by the added total of judges' scores.

Lingo and Terminology

diving lingo and terminology

Here is some important terminology for beginner divers to understand:

  • Approach: The steps taken by the diver toward the end of the board before a dive. The approach usually involves 3 or more steps.
  • Backward: A type of dive where the diver starts with their back facing the water.
  • Entry: The point in a dive where the diver enters the water.
  • Execution: How well a diver performs a dive based on technique, form, and grace.
  • Hurdle: A single-footed upward jump taken before the final two-footed jump in preparing for a dive.
  • Forward: A type of dive where the diver starts facing forward and rotates forward in the dive.
  • Pike: A position where the diver bends forward at the waist with their legs straight and toes pointed.
  • Reverse: A dive where the diver faces forward but rotates backwards towards the platform.
  • Tariff: Another term for degree of difficulty.
  • Tower: Refers to the entire diving platform structure.
  • Tuck: A position where the diver bends and tucks their knees in tightly towards their chest and their heels towards the buttocks.

Skills and Techniques

diving skills and techniques

Diving requires hours of practice to properly master the form and technique of each dive. Competitive divers possess skills such as flexibility, strength, body control, and coordination. They must control their trajectory, rotation, twisting, and body position upon entry.

There are many different types of dives, each with its own techniques for take-off, positioning, and rotations. Divers will be scored on the approach, take off, elevation, overall execution, and water entry of their dives. There are 6 different groups used to classify dives. 1 is the forward group, 2 is the back group, 3 is the reverse group, 4 is the inward group, 5 is the twisting group, and 6 is the handstand group. Divers also utilize different positions such as the straight, pike, tuck, or free dives.


Diving Strategy

In order to win, divers will want to receive the highest overall score possible. The list of dives they plan on executing should reflect the individual's highest level of skill. Oftentimes, simple dives with a low degree of difficulty will not receive enough points to win a competition, so divers should choose dives with the highest degree of difficulty that they are comfortable executing frequently.

There are only a certain number of dives to choose from, so extremely skilled divers may have nearly identical lists in the Olympics or other highly competitive meets. If a diver fails to perform the dive they had previously listed, they will receive a 0 for that dive, even if they performed a more difficult dive instead.

Diving Drills

Diving Drills

Drills in diving are used by coaches and athletes to practice their form, technique, and routine. Each drill is intended to strengthen a particular aspect of diving with repetition and help the athlete improve. Some drills can be practiced without a pool, springboard, or platform, while others will require a full diving facility.

Kick-out drills are used to teach divers how to come out of a dive properly and can also help with understanding entry. These can be practiced on the ground and don’t require actual diving facilities. The back and reverse dive tuck and back and reverse multiple somersaults are the most common kick out drills.

Entry drills are useful for practicing lineups and can be performed both in and out of the water. The tight body alignment drill can be used to practice lineups on the ground while “swims and saves” are great for practicing dive entry during a lineup to enter the water or on the ground.  

Position drills are critical for divers to master air positioning. Poor positioning can greatly affect a diver's score so it is important for divers to practice good tuck or pike positions frequently. Positioning form can easily be practiced by simply assuming proper tuck and pike forms while sitting on the ground.

Hurdle drills are necessary to maximize the height that divers receive from their approach. These can be practiced on the ground but are most effective when practiced on a springboard. By using a hop drill to practice the hurdle jump, or the entire five step approach, diver’s can get the feel for how their hurdle should feel.

Olympic Diving

olympic diving

Diving made its first appearance at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. At the time, the sport was referred to as “fancy diving” and it only featured two men's platform events for high dive and plunge for distance. The springboard events were added in the 1908 Olympics, followed by women’s events being added in 1912. Fast forward to 1996, when synchronized events were finally added to Olympic diving.

Today, there are 8 total diving events at the Olympics, 4 men’s and 4 women's events. These events include the 3 meter springboard and 10 meter platform both individually and synchronized. China and the United States are by far the two strongest nations in terms of Olympic diving performances. The USA holds 49 gold medals with China slightly behind them at 40.

Diving Players

Diving Players

The following athletes are some of the top ranked Olympic diving athletes of all time! They possess the most gold medals of any Olympic diver. Wu Minxia has 5 gold and 7 total medals, Guo Jingjing has 4 gold and 6 in total, and Greg Louganis has 4 gold and 5 total.

  • Wu Minxia: China
  • Guo Jingjing: China
  • Greg Louganis: USA

Diving Brands

Diving Brands

These are some of the most popular swimwear and equipment brands that divers use:

  • Speedo: Diving apparel, gear, & swimwear
  • Sporti: Diving gear and swimwear
  • Nike: Apparel, gear, & swimwear

Diving Youth Organizations

diving youth organizations

These websites are helpful for finding opportunities for youth diving.

Diving Competitions

Diving Competitions

The following are professional diving competitions aside from the Olympics that are hosted by FINA for national diving teams.

  • World Aquatics Championship
  • Diving World Series

Diving Books

Diving Books

Here are some books to help learn more about diving and its’ techniques:

  • Springboard and Platform Diving by Jeffery J. Huber
  • Springboard & Platform Diving by Ronald F. O'Brien
  • The Techniques Of Springboard Diving by Charles Batterman

Diving Websites

Diving Websites

There is much to learn about the sport of diving and diving in the Olympics! The following websites are useful sources to find out more about diving:


What is diving?

In diving, athletes can compete alone or in synchronized pairs, where two divers can execute a move simultaneously. For both types of diving competitors choose from a list of dives ranging from easy to extremely hard. Upon completion of the dive, they are assessed by a panel of judges and given a score based on approach, take-off, elevation, execution of movements in-air and landing. Degree of difficulty is also taken into account, with divers being rewarded more points for successfully completing a challenging dive. Synchronized diving is scored a little differently than individual diving, with judges arriving at their scores based on how precise and unified the two divers are during their performance.

How does the sport of diving work?

Diving competitions are pretty straightforward. Each team will submit their diver’s list of dives before the start of the competition and each dive will be assigned a degree of difficulty. The divers then perform their dives one at a time and receive a score from the judges. This score will be multiplied by the degree of difficulty to give a total score. Divers will perform all of their listed dives and the team or individual with the highest total score will be crowned the winner!

Is diving an Olympic sport?

Yes, diving has been an Olympic sport for over 100 years! The sport was introduced to the Olympics during the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis and remains an Olympic sport to this day. Women’s diving events were first introduced at the 1912 Olympic Games.

Diving is still performed by both men and women in the Olympics. The events include the 3m springboard or 10m platform both individually or synchronized. Currently, the United States has the most gold medals for diving with 49, followed by China and Sweden.