Olympic Greats – Men’s Diving
Greatest Olympic divers in the history of the modern Olympic Games.
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Klaus Dibiasi (Italy)
Klaus Dibiasi (born 1947) completely dominated the 10-meter platform diving event in three successive Olympic Games (1968, 1972, and 1976). In addition, he won the silver in the platform event at the 1964 Games narrowly missing the gold by 1.04 points, and another silver in the 3-meter springboard event at the 1968 Games. With a record total of five Olympic medals, Dibiasi is the only diver to have won three successive Olympic gold medals and the only diver to have won medals at four Summer Olympic Games. With his lean and tall physique, Dibiasi was able to make his trademark “rip” no splash style entries popular.
Greg Louganis (United States)
Greg Louganis (born 1960) was a diver of unparalleled grace and power, and is widely regarded to be the greatest divers of all time. At the age of 16, Louganis qualified for both the springboard and platform events for the 1976 Olympics, where he finished sixth in springboard, but earned the silver medal in the platform competition, coming within 24 points to beating the two-time defending champion, Klaus Dibiasi. Louganis was considered a favorite to win two gold medals at the 1980 Olympics; however, he was unable to compete when the United States boycotted the Games to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Again, expectations were high for the 1984 and 1988 Games as he was virtually unchallenged in both events in every diving competition until 1987, becoming the first diver to earn perfect scores from all judges (1982 World Championships), the first diver to break the 700-point barrier (1984 Games) and the first male diver to do win both events in a single Olympics since 1928. His golden double at the 1988 Games was not without difficulties: the world watched in shock when Louganis hit his head on the springboard while attempting a reverse 2½ somersault pike. However, after getting temporary stitches, he was able to complete and topped the preliminaries and triumphed with the gold in the finals with near perfect scores. He picked another gold medal in the platform finals, surpassing the silver by a mere 1.14 points, becoming the first man to win both springboard and platform events in two successive Olympic Games.
Dmitri Sautin (Russia)
Dmitri Sautin (born 1974) started diving at age 7 and tasted his first success at age 17, capturing the silver medal in the platform at the 1991 European Championships. However, his career almost ended when a gang of teenagers attacked him and stabbed him multiple times upon his return home. Fortunately, no vital organs were damaged. After spending two months in the hospital, he was able to dive at the 1992 Games representing the Unified Team, earning a bronze in the springboard competition. At the 1996 Games, he won his first Olympic gold medal in the platform event despite an injured wrist.
With the debut of synchronized diving at the 2000 Games, Sautin displayed his versatility by entering and medalling in all four men’s diving event: gold in synchronized platform, silver in synchronized springboard and bronzes in two individual events. Sautin earned his seventh Olympic medal, a bronze, in the springboard event at the 2004 Games, and his eighth, a silver, in synchronized springboard at the 2008 Games. With a record total of 8 medals won over 5 consecutive Olympics (1992-2008), Sautin is the most successful diver in Olympic history. He was also a 6-time European Champion on springboard, a 3-time European titleholder in platform, and twice world champion each in springboard and platform events.
Sammy Lee (United States)
Born of Korean immigrant parents, Dr. Sammy Lee (born 1920) overcame financial troubles and racial discrimination to become an Olympic champion and an inspiration to other Asian Americans. Lee taught himself diving well enough to compete in local meets and win California high school championships 3 years in a row. In 1938, he competed in the Los Angeles Invitational meet, where his talent was spotted by former Pacific Coast diving champion Jim Ryan, who decided to coach Lee to become the world’s greatest diver. By 1942, he won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) senior springboard and platform championships, his first major diving titles. He would win the AAU platform title again in 1946 after taking a few years off to finish medical school.
At the 1948 Games, Lee won the gold medal in platform diving, becoming the first Asian American diver to win the gold; and a bronze in the springboard event. He successfully defended his title at the 1952 Games, breaking two records in the process, becoming the first athlete to win back-to-back gold medals Olympic in platform diving and the oldest diver, at 32, to win an Olympic medal. Lee was enthusiastic about his love for diving and was able to add five new difficult dives to the official lists. Though Lee pursued a successful career as a physician specializing in ear diseases, he stayed involved with diving and the Olympics. He went on to coach Olympic divers including Pat McCormick, Bob Webster, and Greg Louganis.
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