Diving, like gymnastics, involves a lot of acrobatics in the air and it takes place too quickly for me to be able to judge it in real time, which tells you something about how difficult it must be to judge the event. The only indicator I have for how good it is at the very end. In the case of gymnastics, it is the landing. In the case of diving, it is how small a splash the diver makes upon entry into the water. In the Tokyo Olympics Chinese diver Quan Hongchan broke all manner of records with her gold-medal winning performance. Even an ignorant observer like me could tell that she was spectacular.
She is only 14 and looks tiny. What is remarkable is that Olympic rules require divers to be at least 14 by the end of the year in which the Olympics are held. If the Tokyo Olympics had not been postponed due to the pandemic, she would not have been eligible because her 14th birthday was this past March. She dedicated her performance to her sick mother that she supports.
Just as Nadia Comaneci’s gold medal performance in the 1976 Olympics resulted in the sudden move to have female gymnasts be very young and small, this performance may do the same for diving. I hope that it does not lead to the same kinds of abusive practices we have seen with gymnastics. I suspect that diving is not as hard on the body as gymnastics, so there’s that.
This video explains the physics of getting a small splash upon entry.
(Via David Pescovitz)