No pain, no gain: The brutal nature of Olympic diving

Hidden behind the spectacular twists and turns in Olympic diving events are the myriad injuries the athletes suffer on a regular basis. Most rarely consider diving the contact sport it is.

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Sports

July 30, 2021 - 1:10 PM

A member of Japan men's synchronized 3m springboard makes a dive in the final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Monday. Photo by Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / TNS

TOKYO — Olympic divers look at the pool a little differently than the rest of us. They see angles and molecular attractions and cohesive forces. They recognize the unfortunate circumstances that can make entering the water feel like “slamming into the floor.”

This is the science of their sport. A human body plummeting from a 10-meter platform, head-first, reaching speeds of approximately 32 miles an hour. The sudden jolt from water’s relatively high surface tension of 72 millinewtons per meter.

“People have no idea,” says Kassidy Cook, a veteran of the U.S. national team and past Olympian. “When you hit the water, it’s as hard as concrete for a split-second before you break through.”

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