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Summer Olympics History: American Greats in Women's Diving Before World War II

The U.S. Dominated the Sport in the 1920s and '30s

Yahoo Contributor Network


Diving was first included in the Olympics in 1904 in St. Louis-for men only-and has been contested at each Games to the present.

Women first participated in Olympic diving in 1912, with competitors taking part in the 10-meter platform event. With the resumption of the Olympics following World War I in 1920, women were also included in the 3-meter springboard event.

The first American woman to earn a podium finish in diving was Aileen Riggin in 1920. In fact, she led an American sweep of the 3-meter springboard medals to begin two decades of American dominance in women's diving up to the start of World War II.

The following list takes a look at several of the American women who achieved Olympic glory in diving during that era:

Elizabeth Becker: A versatile performer, Becker was equally adept at both the 3-meter springboard and the 10-meter platform. She won gold in the former in 1924, and took the title in the latter in 1928. She also added a silver in the 10-meter platform in '24 to her list of accomplishments.

Georgia Coleman: Coleman won a pair of diving medals at both the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, with her lone gold medal earned in the 3-meter springboard in '32 at the Los Angeles Games.

Marjorie Gestring: At 13 years and 268 days of age, Gestring became the youngest gold medalist in Olympic history by taking the 3-meter springboard title in 1936 in Berlin. Her mark will stand for the foreseeable future as Olympic competitors must now be at least 14 years old. Unfortunately for Gestring, World War II interrupted her career in its prime, probably costing her more Olympic medals.

Dorothy Poynton: Poynton was a diver for the U.S. at three consecutive Olympics from 1928-1936. She recorded gold-medal finishes in the 10-meter platform in '32 and '36, and also won silver and bronze in the 3-meter springboard in '28 and '36 respectively.

Katherine Rawls: A swimming and diving star in the 1930s, Rawls is in select company as one of the few Olympians to medal in multiple water sports. She won silver in the 3-meter springboard in back-to-back Olympics in '32 and '36, and capped off her career with a bronze in swimming as a member of the 4x100 meter freestyle relay at the Berlin Games.

Aileen Riggin: As previously mentioned, Riggin won gold in 1920 and added another medal in the 3-meter springboard-a silver-in 1924. The diminutive Riggin, standing a mere four feet seven inches in height at the time of her first Olympics, is also noteworthy for winning the bronze in the 100-meter backstroke in '24.

Helen Wainwright: Another swimming and diving standout in the early years of Olympic competition, Wainwright captured the 3-meter springboard silver in 1920, and then added a swimming silver in the 400-meter freestyle in 1924.

Related content: Olympic Flashback: Top Five Greatest Women Swimmers Prior to World War II

Patrick Hattman covered the London Games for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He is already looking forward to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

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