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  • Writer's picturePaul


I’ll admit it. There aren’t many Olympic sports that I’d be any good at. (Well, not since watercolour painting ceased to be an Olympic discipline in 1948.)

But at a push—or rather, a plunge—I reckon I could have tried my hand at a sport known as the “plunge for distance”, which found itself on the official Olympic itinerary way back in 1904.

Wait til he finds out the water’s frozen... (Public domain)

The rules for Olympic plunging were as follows: the competitor would stand on the edge of a body of water and without the aid of a springboard or diving platform, would vault themselves forwards into the water, precisely 18 inches below.

From there, they were on their own: for the next 60 seconds, they had to remain entirely stationary face down in the water, and without any movement of their arms and legs, drift slowly forwards as far as possible. The winner was the diver who could “plunge” and then float in this manner the furthest distance.

As you can probably imagine, the plunge wasn’t the most athletic of events. And probably for that reason alone it was only contested once on an Olympic level, at the 1904 Games in St Louis: only five competitors, all Americans, took part, and the winner was a William Dickey, who achieved the somewhat startling distance of 62 feet, 6 inches.

And because it’s never been contested ever again, Dickey’s Olympic record still stands to this day.

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