Diving developed as a competitive sport in the 18th century when gymnasts in Germany and Sweden began practicing their routines over water. It was in Germany where the first known book on diving was published in 1843. The oldest German club, Der Berliner Schwimmverein von 1878, began hosting international diving competitions in 1882. The first diving rules were adopted in 1891 at about the same time that competitive diving began in Great Britain thanks to the influence of visiting Swedes. The first diving organization, the Amateur Diving Association, was founded in Great Britain in 1901.
With much support from Germany, diving was introduced to the Olympic program at St. Louis 1904 with a single event for men. It was contested on a rigid board (like today’s platform) but mounted about three metres above the water (like today’s springboard). At the next Olympic Games in London, separate springboard and platform events were included for the men. A women’s platform event was first included at Stockholm 1912 with a springboard event added at Antwerp 1920. Synchronized events on both boards were introduced for men and women at Sydney 2000. Diving has been included at the Pan American Games since the inaugural edition in 1951.
There are five categories of dives, designated by the type of flight, used in all events. A sixth category, armstand, is used in platform diving only.
- Forward – diver’s body facing the water with rotation away from the board
- Backward – diver’s back to the water with rotation away from the board
- Reverse – diver’s body facing the water with rotation back toward the board
- Inward – diver’s back to the water with rotation back toward the board
- Twisting – any dive with a twist, whether forward, backward, reverse or inward
- Armstand – the diver begins from a motionless handstand on the edge of the platform
There are four positions a diver can take while in the air:
- Straight – body remains straight with feet together and toes pointed
- Pike – body bent at the waist with legs straight, feet together and toes pointed
- Tuck – body is bent at the waist with thighs and knees held together and drawn to the chest, heels kept close to the buttocks
- Free – not an actual body position; a combination of straight, pike or tuck, used only in twisting dives
A degree of difficulty for each dive is assigned, based on a mathematical formula that takes into account the number of somersaults, number of twists, flight position and entry position.
Scores are awarded per dive on a scale of 0 to 10 in half or whole points as follows:
- Completely failed 0
- Unsatisfactory 0.5 to 2.0
- Deficient 2.5 to 4.5
- Satisfactory 5.0 to 6.5
- Good 7.0 to 8.0
- Very good 8.5 to 9.5
- Excellent 10