diamond geezer

 Wednesday, February 22, 2012

London 2012  London Prepares
  Fina Diving World Cup
  Men's 3m Springboard Preliminary

The Olympic Test Events roll on - last week the velodrome, this week the pool. A full seven days of leaping into the water from a variety of heights, from boards or platforms, in pairs or one at a time. The event is the 18th Fina [name of credit card company] Diving World Cup, and it's taking place at the Aquatics Centre all this week. Monday dealt with all things synchronised, while Tuesday saw separate competitions for high-diving women and low-springing men. I went along to the latter with a camera or two, and here's my visual record of proceedings in the pool.

Diving's not just about falling from a high place. Indeed, the 3m springboard isn't even especially high. A bouncy blue plank stretches out across the water, dwarfed by the 10m platform looming alongside. You walk out, you push down, and then you leap up into the air and twist like crazy on the way down in the hope that the judges will give you marks. That's essentially how the event works. And that's what I watched for four solid hours yesterday afternoon.

Everything took place up one end of the Aquatics Centre, so anyone sat overlooking the Olympic sized swimming pool had a somewhat diminutive view of proceedings. The afternoon kicked off with a warm-up session, which essentially gave carte blanche to all the athletes to climb up the steps of their choice and hurl themselves from the top. The high and medium platforms were popular, all good practice for whatever events the competitors might be taking part in later in the week. They queued to ascend, and waited patiently at the top, then raised their arms before leaping into the blue. Meanwhile the springboard posse gathered en masse on three lower boards, in parallel, to prepare for today's matter in hand.

One especially important element of the whole up/down cycle was the humble towel. Divers made sure they were damp before ascending, then rubbed themselves down at the summit before hurling their towel down to ground level. Mostly they hit the tiles on the edge, but sometimes the towel landed in the water and floated there until its master descended to collect it. And then round again - lob, collect, lob, collect - until the warm-up finally closed and a volunteer went round to grab all the spare towels left draped over the rails. Seriously, a big thing in diving, towels. Never be without one.

At 2pm athlete number 1 climbed the steps, solo, for the first competitive dive. The crowd hushed - utterly and completely across the entire Aquatics Centre, so quiet that you could have heard a man drop. He stood on the tip of the board, then bounced and flipped in accordance with the precise form of dive posted up on the display board. The idea is to excel and then hit the water cleanly, which he didn't quite, so the judges marked him down on his performance. There are seven judges marking out of ten, then the top two and lowest two scores are deleted, and the remaining three scores totalled and multiplied by the numeric difficulty score for each type of dive. Being the first diver this performance placed him automatically in first position, and we all applauded, but his top spot wasn't to last. There were 58 other divers to follow, each with six different dives to make. That's 354 consecutive kersploshes. It was going to be a very long afternoon.
Here's how the springboard dive cycle works:
» previous diver leaps into water (to varied levels of applause)
» next diver ascends steps (while very brief snippet of Adele, or other mainstream artist, plays over the PA)
» scores from previous diver flash up briefly on big screen, and the crowd strains to look
» the lady announcer reads out the name of the next diver, and the four-digit code for their chosen dive
» if British, there are manic cheers of "come on Jack!" or "come on Chris!" (especially from Chris's Mum in the front row with the big Union Jack)
» umpire blows whistle, then silence (but less silence as the afternoon goes on)
» diver positions himself (backwards) at tip of plank, or takes a bounding run-up
» diver leaps into water (and repeat)
At first the crowd would applaud anything, then as the afternoon wore on fewer people applauded for less time, not unless the last dive had been especially good or especially British (or both). As novice spectators, alas, it was very hard for us to judge each dive on its true merits. Often we'd applaud wildly a dive which the judges then decreed was merely mediocre, or fail to cheer for a dive worth high sevens or even eight. According to one of Monday's competitors, China's Ruolin Chen, ‘The crowd here are all very excited, they will give you good support if you dive good or bad.’ And so we will, lady, because we don't actually understand what we're clapping.

But occasionally it was obvious. The South American diver who slapped his head against the board on the way down, then left clutching a bag of ice - he obviously scored badly. The diver whose downward trajectory made every coach sitting by the poolside rise to their feet in fear of an imminent mega-splash - he obviously scored badly. The pre-adolescent Hong Kong boy who looked like he was at least six years younger than everybody else in the competition - he scored more for sympathy than for technical excellence. And China's Ka Qin - every one of his dives was so good that before long he was beating everyone else by 19 clear points.

On and on and on it went, for six 40 minute rounds, with barely a pause between each. By the end of the four hours many of the competitors coming round felt like old friends - the Venezuelan with two strips of black tape covering his tattoos, the American with a screeching girl fan in the audience, the blond Russian who wouldn't look out of place in the next Bond movie, all of them. And of course it was Ka Qin who won, but Britain's Jack Laugher managed a very creditable fifth place to the delight of the crowd. The entire Mears family were visibly overjoyed too, especially Mum, because son Chris beat the cut for today's semi-finals by coming 14th, and earned himself an Olympic team place as a bonus. Welcome to Stratford's palace of watery dreams, with only five months to go until all this is for real.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream