Oliver Dingley rues ‘small mistakes’ as he fails to make 3m springboard diving semis

Ireland athlete places 25th while China’s Zongyuan Wang leads the charge in first

Three metres, that's all about leaping out of your bedroom window. Oliver Dingley stepped and bounced and leapt higher than the three metres sending himself spiralling from the platform upwards and out and hoping that somewhere in the warm air he was tumbling through in the Tokyo Aquatic Arena, he would straighten his body and break the surface, barely making a ripple.

But even for the 29 divers in the preliminary stage of the Men’s 3-Metre Springboard, there were hitches. The board was springing up when they were coming down. They were sideways when they should have been straight, a darned difficult piece of choreography.

Patrick Hausding from Germany bounced and pranced and realising it was unravelling grabbed the platform with his hands and barely stayed dry.

South Korean Yeongnam Kim was more dramatic. He stopped in his first attempt, walked back along the board and started again. But somewhere after one rotation in the air he began to bale, he began to sense the "twisties", what gymnast Simone Biles described as not knowing where your body is in the air.


Dingley had no such twisties but a second dive, a forward 3½ somersaults, that earned him 40.30 points when he was looking for marks in the 50s or 60s and the 8th place he won for Ireland in Rio 2016 seemed a long way away.

Dingley had a tough day with his six dives and finished with 335 points which placed him in 25th and well outside the top 18 divers that went through to the semi-finals.


“That second dive, I didn’t land too well on the end of the diving board,” he said afterwards. “They call it a ‘hanging 10’, I didn’t have much feet on the diving board and my momentum was taking me forwards so at that point it’s more a try and hold on for your life.

“We train so hard visually and mentally to try and figure out where we are in the air, so that took a lot of hard work to try and figure out where I was, which way was up and which way was down, and go for the water the right way. But those are the moments that are going to happen sometimes. Unfortunately, for me, it happened in the Olympic Games.”

There is not difficulty in understanding the breadth of the mental challenge, whether it’s three metres on the springboard or 10 metres on the tower platform.

They stand, sometimes with their backs facing the water, arms straight out and up on their toes at the edge of the board. A cruciform shape like Christ the Redeemer in Rio, there is a moment they seem to find perfect stillness and then they then launch.

Dingley just couldn’t shift himself from around the 25th to 27th mark, with the field consistently setting higher gains in the scoring. His run of points was 63.00 for the first dive, 40.30 for the second, 59.50, 54.00, 57.00 and finally a 61.20 from his most difficult dive a back 2½ somersaults pike position with 1½ twists.

“It won’t be the last time it happens to some divers. I think there were three failed dives in that competition,” says Dingley. “They’re the best divers in the world and that’s what happens in high-level sport, especially in a sport like diving where you’re on a metal plank that can shoot you off in any direction.

“Unfortunately my momentum took me a bit too far forwards but I felt that I dealt with it the best possible way I could. I am an experienced enough diver. I have been through the mill with good dives, bad dives. The experiences were fairly similar. This is the Olympic Games. A diving board is a diving board. It just didn’t go today how I liked.”

Slot machines

Before it began, the two Chinese lads were tipped to be up in the gods spinning like slot machines before almost silently breaking the surface. So it transpired, with Zongyuan Wang and Siyi Xie leading the charge in first and second place.

Dingley has seen it all before. He’s wise and reasonable and in his disappointment speaks common sense, makes it comprehensible for those who have never hurled themselves from the edge of a three metre anything.

“Mentally it is a very challenging sport to stand there on a diving board and launch yourself off,” he says. “It is just the small mistakes that happen on the day. I have seen it happen to some of the best divers in the world.

“Going back to Rio, the Olympic champion from 2012 finished 18th, the world champion finished 25th. Some crazy dives out there that didn’t go people’s way and unfortunately I was just on the wrong end of that. It was just those split second decision in the air and that’s what cost you in the end.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times