Greg Louganis’ Guide to Watching Diving

The gold medalist offers a cheat sheet on his sport’s rules, maneuvers and slang

Greg Louganis.jpg
Greg Louganis competes in a diving event held in August 1984 at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. David Madison/Getty Images

Introducing the Expert

Name: Greg Louganis
Games and Medals: Montreal 1976 (Silver, 10m Platform), Los Angeles 1984 (Gold, 3m Springboard and 10m Platform), Seoul 1988 (3m Springboard and 10m Platform)
Key Quote: “Diving was my escape during my childhood. I was bullied as a child and dealt with issues of depression. Amidst all the perceived chaos in my life, diving was my outlet.”
Favorite Olympic Moment: “My first Olympics in 1976, I hung out with the team from the then Soviet Union, they were closer to my age (16). We had fun running around the village exploring and water balloon fights.”


Pool - must be a minimum of 5 meters deep

Springboard - provides a flexible surface from which to launch upward into the air

Platform -provides a firm base from which to handstand or takeoff down toward the water


100 Front Group - forward rotation facing the pool; each half rotation has a numerical value of 1 (E.g. a somersault = the number 102, a “front 1.5” = 103)

200 Back Group - standing backwards on the board or platform and rotating backwards toward the water. Same as above, half rotation gets a number value.

300 Reverse, or "gainer" Group - standing forwards on the board, facing the water and rotating backwards towards the board or platform. Each half somersault gets a number value; a reverse somersault or full gainer is a 302.

400 Inward or "cut away" Group - standing backwards on the board and rotating in towards the board

5000 Twisting Group - Because the diver is rotating on two axes, the numeric identification is as follows. The 5 indicates a twist, the next number indicates direction of rotation: 1 (Front), 2 (Back), 3 (Reverse), 4 (Inward), 6 (arm stand.) The next number will identify the number of half rotations as in the first four examples. The last number indicates each half twist. 5136, for instance, describes “Front one and half with three twists.” 5355 is a “Reverse two and half with two and a half twists.”

600 Arm Stand Group - The diver’s start position is balanced on his or her hands. This is only done on 10-meter platform. If the dive starts with a 5, this indicates twisting and will have four numbers. In this group, the same rules apply, although the second number after the 6 will indicate direction of rotation and the last number will indicate half a rotation.

The positions of the dives are assigned a letter for identification.

A=Straight or Layout - a dive position in which there is no bend in the knees or waist

B=Pike - a dive position in which there is a tight bend at the waist but no bend in the knees

C=Tuck - a dive position in which there is a tight bend at both the knees and waist


1. Balk - a false start to a dive in which the diver attempts to takeoff but does not leave the board or platform

2. Rip or rip entry - entering the water with little or no splash; named for the ripping sound made upon entry

3. Cowboy - when the diver splits the ankles and knees apart on a rotating dive from the tuck or pike position

4. Puffed, Smoked, Powdered or Houdini - among the many terms used to describe a good entry


Judge Scoring - Anyone can be a judge! If you watch a dive look at the overall impression of the dive and put it in the category you think it belongs in.
Excellent = 10
Very Good= 8.5 to 9.5
Good= 7 to 8
Satisfactory= 5 to 6.5
Deficient= 2.5 to 4.5
Unsatisfactory= .5 to 2
Fail = 0

The degree of difficulty (DD) - A dive is assigned a numeric value for the difficulty of execution, which then will be the multiplier of the judges’ awards. It takes into account direction, number of rotations, body position and the height of the dive.

Double Bounce - Divers may score zero if they double bounce on the end of the board, take too long to dive or make two "balks,” or false starts.

Number of Dives - In most competitions, men must complete six dives, while women must complete five dives.

Game Changers

1920 - The United States was not a formidable power in diving until 1920. Prior to that time, Germany and Sweden had the strongest diving programs.

1996 - Synchronized diving on both the springboard and platform was introduced at the Atlanta Games in 1996 and was not a full medal Olympic event until the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.