Olympic Platform Diving History
Olympic platform diving history dates back to the 1904 Summer Olympic games in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. "Fancy Diving" was performed on a 10 meter platform diving board. High diving was introduced to the Olympic program in 1908.
The early days of Olympic platform diving history were dominated by the United States, German and Sweden. Platform diving had been a popular sport in Germany's history since the 1600's. A German platform diving club called Neptun was founded in 1882. Neptun hosted regular international diving contests. The Swedes were jumping into lakes from scaffolding during the same era. Americans became interested in diving as a sport near the end of the 1800's. The first Olympic platform diving winner was a St. Louis native eye doctor named George Sheldon.
The international competitive nature of Olympic platform diving was confusing in the early years because of the varying diving criteria between the nations. German platform divers were often gymnasts who practiced tumbling in mid air during a dive. Swedish platform divers favored the thrill and bravery of high diving while the Germans preferred body position and form. The rules for judging platform diving were finally decided in 1914 during a meeting in Budapest. German diving values became the norm for Fancy Diving, and the Swedes decided the norms of high diving. The rules changed again in 1928 when the committee allowed more diving styles as the sport evolved.
With the exception of the 1904 American victory, Germans and Swedes dominated the diving scene throughout early Olympic platform diving history. The Americans finally caught up in 1920. Americans Louis Kuehn, Clarence Pinkston, Louis Balbach, Aileen Riggin, Helen Wainwright, Thelma Payne and Harry Prieste all won either gold, silver or bronze medals. The American team continued to dominate Olympic platform diving history for several decades.