essentially the art of entering the water efficiently and gracefully, and
exhibition diving is to many the most beautiful of all sports. The combination
of ability, beauty and grace that characterizes women's diving produces a
symphony of coordinated motion that is a joy to behold. Yet diving can be
and the necessity for precise execution make competitive diving one of the more
difficult skills to master. It takes at least five years of exhausting daily
workouts to develop championship form. Once this form has been achieved, the
workouts must be continued virtually the year around to maintain it.
requirements for success so demanding, it is no wonder that there are only a
handful of top women divers competing today. Most are talented Californians,
like Paula Jean Myers (opposite page), Ann Cooper (pages 56, 57) and Juno
Stover Irwin. Young Jeanne Stunyo of Detroit is a fine prospect. But far above
them all is a small, trim-bodied, Long Beach, Calif. housewife, 24-year-old
Mrs. Pat Keller McCormick (page 58), double Olympic and Pan-American Games
champion who has won 18 national titles—more than any woman in history. In 1951
and 1954 Pat made an unprecedented sweep of all five U.S. titles, from heights
of one to 10 meters. She dominates the field as no other diver ever has.
To stay at the
top, Pat McCormick practices two hours a day, makes 25,000 dives a year. But
constant hard work and years of training by no means tell the whole story.
Tension and mental anguish in competition play a big role. Like most divers,
Pat is nervous at a meet. She often gags on food for days before. She spends
hours with her husband Glenn, who is also her coach, planning the dives she
One slip can cost
a title. In 1953, for instance, Pat struck the board while doing a difficult
half gainer with a half twist forward one and a half somersault in pike
position, lost 55 points and the national three-meter indoor title to Paula
As if there
weren't already enough strain to competitive diving, the girls always risk
injury. Hitting the board, striking the water improperly at a speed of close to
a mile a minute and failing to recover under water in time to avoid bumping the
bottom of the pool all take their toll. At a physical examination in 1951 a
flabbergasted doctor found that many of the best divers are scarred like
prizefighters. On Pat McCormick he found a healed-over six-inch scalp wound,
scars at the base of her spine, a once-cracked rib and broken finger, and blood
welts across her collarbone from the impact of striking the water. In addition,
all her upper front teeth were chipped.
Very few women
are physically fitted to take up competitive diving. Some cannot perfect the
intricate timing of the many maneuvers to be made in mid-air—twists,
jackknives, somersaults, gainers and the like. Others lack the straight legs
and instinctively pointed toes that are so essential.
muscles, slender hips and a muscular but well-formed body characterize the
champions. Pat McCormick begins every day's practice with stomach exercises and
jumping routines before going to the springboard. Many divers also have had
ballet training, which helps develop poise on the board.
divers are acrophobic. Pat McCormick, who dives regularly in 35-foot platform
events, is one of these and readily admits it. But if high places scare her, it
doesn't show on the judges' sheets. She has three national platform titles,
will be after a fourth this year. Pat expects to continue in competition
through the 1956 Olympics. "Then," she says, "I will be quite happy
to give up all that glittering hardware for five babies."