Olympic Watch

 

We still have another week of Olympics to watch, but for me, the best has been the synchronized platform diving.

I used to do that.

Seeing it now, I wonder what possessed me to stand on a deck 32.8 feet in the air and jump into the swimming pool.

It was my first year at Texas State College for Women. My father sent me there because he thought the only natural ability I had was in athletics. That school had a great physical education department. It even had a nine hole golf course. One day, my Latin American art history professor, himself an avid golfer, asked it anybody in class would caddy for a friend of his and in so doing, be guaranteed a passing grade in his class. For me, that beat looking at slides of churches. My hand shot up. His friend turned out to be Byron Nelson and I got to caddy for him during his best golfing season ever.

Back to diving, I remember the first time I climbed to the top of the ten-meter platform. I stood there asking myself, why would anybody want to do this? I’d been swimming and diving at the Kansas City Athletic Club for several years so I already knew how to do flips, twists, jackknives, and swan dives, but only from one meter and three-meter springboards. I dove off anyway and  before I hit the water, I knew I was hooked. It was so much fun.

Back then, nobody had ever heard of synchronized platform diving. My diving coach paired me with Janie, a  girl from Beaumont, Texas.  After seeing us work out together, she’d decided we would make a good team. Janie and I were typical seventeen-year-olds, daring and fearless.

We practiced for hours, climbing up that ladder, diving into the atmosphere, trying to keep together, sometimes in wet sweatshirts that protected us from painful landings. There were no trampolines in those days, no fancy acrobatic equipment, no spotters. We were just two kids having a good time.

We both frequently competed in springboard events and and we both won our share. Then after the meets, we performed exhibitions from the platform, reveling in the adulation.

I left TSCW after two years. I never saw Janie again nor went off another platform.

Now, when I see those Olympic divers, I think, did I really do that?

 

Byron Nelson and his caddy – me.

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