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The Queen off the Divers Is King
William F. Reed
August 16, 1971
U.S. Air Force Captain Maxine Joyce (Micki) King is only 27 but in the age-conscious world of competitive diving she is regarded as something of a relic; many of her younger rivals tease Micki by calling her Mother Max. They also tend to regard her with something close to reverence.
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August 16, 1971

The Queen Off The Divers Is King

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A self-confessed tomboy while growing up in Pontiac, Mich., Micki began diving at the age of 10. Her first formal meet was at the Toledo, Ohio YMCA when she was 15. "I had never seen any girl divers before," says Micki. "I won, but I wasn't cocky because I knew I had a lot to learn. I didn't even know the names of the dives I did."

Her mother wanted Micki to become a figure skater. "I tried it for a while," she says, "but I didn't like the routine. I still can't understand why I got bored with the routines of figure skating but not with those of diving." She enrolled at Michigan in 1962 and became a star goalie in water polo, making All-America in 1962-63. She also began diving for Kimball. "She wasn't very good at first," he recalls, "but I knew she was a good athlete. She dives like a man."

Micki first tried platform diving, which is the scariest experience in the sport, at the end of her freshman year. "I would like to know what makes people jump," she says. "A lot don't at first, you know. They stand there on the edge and finally walk away. Height is the big psychological thing that scares people off. When you hit the water after jumping off the tower, you're going about 40 miles an hour. Sometimes you hit with such force that your shoulders and upper arms turn black and blue. I was scared for three years."

In 1964 Micki became the first woman ever to do a back 1� somersault with 2� twists, a tower dive that has since become fairly common. The next year she won her first AAU indoor platform championship. In 1966 Micki pioneered another dive—the reverse 1� somersault with 2� twists off the springboard. She also joined the Air Force.

"I wanted something different from the ordinary," says Micki, sounding vaguely like a recruiting spiel. "The Air Force was a chance to have a career and continue diving at the same time. This was something I couldn't find in civilian life."

In November 1966 she was graduated from Officer Training School and commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. Her first assignment after OTS was with the ROTC detachment at Michigan, where she was stationed from 1966 to 1968. This was convenient as she was able to train for the Olympics with Kimball. Now Micki is based at the Los Angeles Air Force Station, where she is in charge of non-appropriated funds. It is an 8-to-5 job in which she oversees the spending of some $12,000 each quarter for athletic equipment and other material not accounted for in the base's budget. She dives on her own time, making the 46-mile round trip from Hermosa Beach ("Most of my neighbors think I'm a meter maid," she says) to the Belmont Plaza pool in Long Beach each evening after work.

"People are under the impression that all I do in the Air Force is dive or play in the damned gym," she says. "I get annoyed because I do have a responsible, full-time job. All I ask of the Air Force is that they give me time off to work out before international meets, which they do."

Micki was given an intangible but impressive reward after winning this year's AAU indoor title at West Point. The presentations were made by Colonel Frank J. Kobes Jr. and, after handing Micki her medal, he stepped back and snapped off a salute. "The great thing was that the cadets were there and they knew what it meant to be saluted by a superior officer," she says. "They went wild, but I was sort of embarrassed."

Micki has a knack for getting into embarrassing situations. Once, after coming to New York to do some public-relations work for the Air Force, she was asked by one of her hosts, a fellow officer, if she would like to have dinner and attend the theater. "I thought that would be great," says Micki, "but when I said yes, he said, 'Good, here's cab fare and there will be one ticket waiting for you at the box office.' Then he decided that wouldn't be very gallant so he and another officer began to argue over which would have to take me. I finally told them just to give me a plane ticket home and forget it."

Then there was the time Micki put on a diving exhibition at Grossinger's, in the Catskills, and kept losing the top of her suit. "Except," she says, "I wasn't worried because it was underwater and I had everything fixed by the time I came up to the surface. This happened on almost every dive but I didn't think anything about it until later, when I went into the game room and discovered that the pool had a big underwater window. All the time I had been putting on my suit and taking it off for those guys in the game room. A couple of them were playing Ping-Pong and I heard one say, 'Well, too bad that blonde stopped diving.' They laughed. I almost fainted."

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