Oliver Dingley delivers some cheer at last amidst the wind and noise
Dingley survives the elements to reach semi-final with a confident display
Ireland’s Oliver Dingley competes in the Men’s 3m Springboard Preliminary during the diving event. Photograph: Getty Images
Oliver Dingley made light of the fact that no Irishman has stood on an Olympic diving board since 1948.
He qualified for Tuesday’s semi-final by finishing 13th out of a field of 29 in the preliminary heats on a blustery afternoon in Olympic park.
A terrific sixth and final round dive by Dingley sealed his qualification.
“I knew I had to keep my nerve. So it was a good result, especially with a few iffy dives.
“It was a bit – pardon the pun– a bit up and down. The weather was a factor: it was obviously lovely before we started but the wind really picked up. I could feel it standing for my dives. Wobbling around. I could feel the effect on some of the divers but I kept my cool.”
It’s a treacherous sport, devised to punish the smallest errors in extravagant ways.
For instance, when Ahmad Azman of Malaysia began his sixth and final dive, he was sitting 12th.
It was as if a gust of wind caught him on his ascent and although he tried to complete his repertoire, he had no more control over his landing than a day-diver after plunging off the boards in Kilkee.
He crash-landed and was handed a series of chastening ones, his hopes vanishing.
Every Olympic sport has its distinctive personality and at the diving centre, the organisers are evidently chasing what David Brent might describe as a chilled out vibe.
In mid-afternoon, the music is jazzy hip-hop, the sunshine is never ending and the swimming Speedos, well, are on the minimalist side.
Up close to pool’s edge, with the music blaring and the Dj revving up the crowd, it comes as half a surprise that the Germans haven’t bagged all the best seats with their beach towels and that Tom Cruise isn’t manning a cocktail bar islanded in the water.
In a way, the superficial mood-setting stuff is kind of an annoyance because it implies that the actual athletes and the competitors can’t be relied upon to generate enough of an atmosphere in their own right. So it detracts from the power and grace of the actual performances.
Breathless coverageThere had been much breathless coverage about the fact that the water at the Marian Lenk aquatics centre at turned an unfathomable-green over the opening week.
It was a bit of a disappointment to discover that the diving pool had been restored to its usual aqua-marine chlorinated colour. The sight of the divers entering the murky depths of the kind of lair you might expect to encounter a Brazilian version of the Lough Ness monster had its attractions.
Once the competition began, the standard, set by China’s Yuan Cao with an early and ridiculous reverse dive featuring a 1.5 somersault and 3.5 twist - was riveting. Few people outside Irish aquatics knew if Dingley, an English man who qualifies to dive for Ireland through an Irish grandmother, could live in this company.
It turned out that he could, and comfortably. Mexico’s Rommel Pacheo and the USA’s Kristian Ipsen vied with Cao for the first three places. A disappointing fifth round dive for Dingley, when he couldn’t quite straighten after a reverse two and half somersault pike, left him sitting 16th with one dive remaining.
The top 18 would qualify out of a field of 29.
“I had a brilliant take off and thought I was spinning a bit faster than I actually was,” he recalled.
“I was in mid air and realised and there is nothing you can do about it! So I had to take that one a bit short.”
By now, the weather had changed to a moody July afternoon on the Atlantic coast, with a big breeze and baleful clouds. Dingley recovered his position with his closing dive, a backwards two and a half somersault quarter twist pike, earning a score of 78.2.
Good dive“I knew I was capable of doing a very good dive and I saved the best until last,” he said cheerfully.
“The pressure is on everyone here and, I mean, this is a job for us. I love standing on that diving board. I was shaking! But I absolutely love it and I hope I did everyone proud back in Ireland.”
After a rough day for Irish sport, Dingley provided some needed cheer.