The Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) is the governing organization for swimming or water related competitions at the World Championships and the Olympics. The organization makes the rules for sports such as swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo, open-water swimming, and diving.
For diving competitions, FINA has set out a meticulous formula for judging athletes. There are different sets of rules for springboard and platform competitions. These rules apply to both men and women’s diving competitions.
For springboard diving (one and three-meter springboards) all men must complete six dives, while women complete five. There are six different diving styles (front, back, inward, reverse, twisting, and armstand). Men must do five different styles and then repeat one on their sixth attempt. Women must do a different style in each of their five dives. There is no limit to the degree of difficulty the dives can be.
For platform diving (10-meter platform), men perform six dives while women perform five dives. All men must perform a dive from each of the six different diving styles, while women must perform a different one among the six in all their dives.
Judges award points for dives on a scale of zero to 10. A completely failed dive is awarded zero points, an unsatisfactory dive 0.5-2 points, a deficient dive 2.5-4.5 points, and a satisfactory dive is rated 5-6.5 points. A good dive is given 7-8 points, a very good dive 8.5-9.5 points, and an excellent dive earns 10 points. Judges award points based on their impression of how a diver performed.
In their assessments of divers, judges focus only on technique and execution. Specifically, judges look at a diver’s technique at the starting position, take off, flight, and entry into water. Judges do not award points based on other factors such as the diver’s approach to the starting position, movement beneath the water, or the degree of difficulty of the dive.
Divers usually announce the dives they will perform before doing them. If a diver performs a dive in a different position from the one announced, the judges deem it unsatisfactory. If the dive is performed partially in another position from the one announced, judges can deduct points at their discretion.
While judges do not award points based on a dive’s degree of difficulty, FINA does recognize that some dives are inherently more difficult than others. For example, a dive with four somersaults is harder than a dive with just two. That is why FINA has degree of difficulty tables in its rules that outline standard factors for different types of dives. Judges apply these factors in diving competitions to incorporate degree of difficulty in their assessments.
This is how it plays out in a competition: once a diver completes a dive, the judges award the athlete points based on technique (subjective scores). These points are multiplied by the degree of difficulty factor from the FINA tables for that specific type of dive (an objective score), and then the scores are averaged to get the diver’s final score for that dive.
At elite diving competitions, divers go through levels of scored rounds. At the World Championships, for example, there are preliminary and final rounds for the one-meter springboard competition. For the three-meter springboard and 10-meter platform competitions, there are preliminary, semi-final, and final rounds.
In the one-meter springboard competition, all divers take part in the preliminary round, and then the 12 highest scoring divers make it to the final round, where the diver with the highest score wins. In the three-meter springboard and 10-meter platform competitions, all divers take part in the preliminary round, the top 18 proceed to the semi-finals, the top 12 advance to the final, and the highest scored diver in the final wins. At each stage or level, men perform six dives and women five dives.