The Most Bizarre Event in Olympic History? Plunge For Distance
We all snicker about strange or quirky events that pop up only every four years during the Summer Olympics. Synchronized swimming, air rifle, and more. But this one takes the cake.
In 1904, the Olympics were held in St. Louis, Missouri. Although athletes from all over the world attended, it was a far cry from today's massive event. Many of the events mirrored popular societal trends and fads too. This event, staged only once in Olympic history, was one of those.
It seems for about a decade from the late 1890's until after the turn of the century, people in the U.S. and some foreign countries, were fascinated by how far somebody could dive, or plunge, under water. 1904 happened to be the very first time diving events were added to the summer games. This event was called Plunge For Distance.
Plunge for Distance was staged, and gold, silver, bronze medals given. How did you do it? Competitors would run as fast as they could down a dock or pier. They would then leap as high and as far off the dock as they could over the water.
Then, as they prepared to enter, they would straighten their body like an arrow, and see how far they could plunge under the surface. Once in the water, you were NOT allowed to paddle or propel yourself in any way. Hmmm. It was often describing as a diving long jump.
The event was swept by the Americans, in fact there were only five competitors, all were all from the U.S.! Gold medal winner William Dickey of the U.S. will forever have a place in Olympic history, although a dubious one.
The event, although a popular summertime past time, was quickly blasted and ridiculed by the media and sports 'experts' as putting more emphasis on "blubber" than speed, strength and stamina. Some British newspapers said the event was tedious and favored those who were fat, and could get further into the water. After 1904 it was never held again.
Considering some of the strange Olympic events, maybe they should add the cannonball in the swimming pool. Could recruit some sumo wrestlers and see how big a splash they could make!