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Guide to diving

Diving guide

Diving is not a sport for the faint-hearted.

Jumping from a 10m high platform and hitting the water at a speed of 30mph is a daunting enough prospect on its own.

But when you have to throw in a series of somersaults and twists in between, and land with only the slightest splash, there is little margin for error.


Dives are made from either springboards or platforms.

The flexible springboard allows the diver to launch upwards into the air, while the platform provides a solid base from which to begin a high dive.

In simple terms, a dive breaks down into three main phases - takeoff, flight and entry.

The aim is to link the three as gracefully as possible, and to enter the water with the body straight and in a vertical position.

Take-off: Divers can take off facing forwards or backwards.

For forwards take-offs, they can run along the board or take off from a standing position. For backwards take-offs, they must spring up from a standing position.

Tom Daley
The best divers can perform more than 60 different dives

For platform dives, there is also the option of taking off from a handstand.

Flight: There are several different positions that a diver can adopt in the air, and these are often combined in the same dive.

For the straight position, the body, arms and legs are straight and the feet are together.

For the pike position, the body is bent at the waist but the legs remain straight.

For the tuck, which is used for somersaults, the body is curled and the knees and thighs are drawn in to the chest.

The free position, which is used for twisting dives, combines at least two of the straight, pike and tuck positions.

Entry: The diver must enter the water in as vertical a position as possible, with the body straight, the feet together and the toes pointed.

For head-first entries, the arms should be stretched beyond the head and in line with the body, with the hands close together.

For feet-first entries, the arms should be close to the body, with no bending at the elbows.


At the Olympics and world championships, the 10m platform and 3m springboard are used by both men and women.

The Commonwealth Games adds the 1m springboard, and other competitions include 5m platform and 7.5m platform events.

Front Take-off facing the water
Back Take-off with diver's back to the water
Reverse Facing forward with rotation back towards board
Inward Facing backward with rotation back towards board
Twisting Any dive with a twist
Armstand Handstand takeoff (platform only)
In major finals, men get six dives and women five, and their efforts are marked by a panel of seven judges.

Once the diver leaves the start position, the dive is deemed to have begun, and the judges mark on the grace and technique of the dive.

The judges assess only how well a dive is executed, and their total score - minus the highest and lowest marks - is multiplied by the dive's tariff, or degree of difficulty, to obtain a final score.

Dives must be announced to the judges in advance, and no dive can be repeated.

After each dive the referee gives a signal and the judges, without conferring, give their marks.

The diver with the lowest qualifying score goes first in the final, with a tie declared if two or more competitors finish with the same score.


In synchro diving, two team-mates execute their dives at the same time.

Synchronised divers in action
Synchro divers must time their movements perfectly
They are judged on the quality of their dives, and on how closely they mirror each other's movements.

That means they must take off at the same time, travel a similar height and distance from the board or platform, and enter the water at the same time and at a similar angle.

In major competitions, there are 10m platform and 3m springboard synchro events.

In finals, there are six rounds for men and five for women.


If you've got a head for heights, diving might just be the sport for you.

The Amateur Swimming Association is responsible for diving in Britain, along with swimming, synchronised swimming and water polo.

Its website has details of where to find a club in your area.

see also
Brits to watch: Tom Daley
04 Aug 08 |  Diving

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