The smaller the splash, the bigger the points. But how do Olympic divers slip quietly into the water after tumbling from the equivalent of a three-story building?
There’s a precise science behind the “rip entry” technique. And with the world’s top divers set to compete in Rio, it will be imperative to execute under pressure at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center this month.
The idea is to hit the pool with an open hand to create an air pocket for your body to enter, then somersault underwater to disperse the air bubble and prevent it from surfacing in a unified splash.
Here’s how a few members of Team USA explain it…
Steele Johnson (men’s individual 10m platform and men’s synchronized 10m platform)
“So there’s a lot of factors that go into reducing the splash. A lot of people think it’s just on the end, but if you have a bad takeoff, your body’s going to be moving in such a way that it’s gonna be almost impossible to make a small splash. So you wanna have a big flat hand when you hit the water because that creates a pop sound, and then it spreads the water, and then you spread your hands apart. You create a hole in the water. And then when you’re going through, once your hips get through, you wanna pike save or knee save, depending on a front or back. And when you do that, it just sucks the rest of your body under and disperses all the bubbles across as much surface as you can, and makes sure it doesn’t go back up.”
Abby Johnston (women’s individual 3m springboard)
“When you go through the water, you wanna have your hand completely flat and then you wanna move your wrists and your arms out to the side, because that creates a hole for your whole body to go through. So you push through the water, flick your wrists and then you do a little flip underwater just to keep it all below you – all that bubble, all that air from going up into a splash. So it’s a complex and quick little move. The dive doesn’t end above the water. It’s a lot going on down below, flipping over.”
Amy Cozad (women’s synchronized 10m platform)
“In making the smallest splash you can possibly make, you grab your hands one on top of the other, and the bottom hand has to be as flat as possible. And so right after you hit the water you swim your arms straight out to the side, so when you’re upside down it’s right in line with your body, and with your hands and your arms it creates this air bubble, so your body goes through the water and it creates this air bubble. You’re bringing air with you as you’re entering through the water. And after you go down you somersault in and up over that air bubble. Then all this air is underneath you and it can’t just explode back up, so then the air disperses, because that’s what makes the splash, and then this air shoots back up, and it moves water out of its way when it’s coming up. So that dispersing of the air bubbles underwater is what the goal is to try to make the smallest splash.”
The “rip entry” technique will be on full display when Olympic diving events begin on Aug. 7.