Diving is the art of jumping headfirst into water, often while performing acrobatic feats. As a competitive sport, it is judged on technical excellence. Men’s competitive springboard diving became part of the NZASA championship programme in 1920. A women’s championship was introduced in 1924, and platform diving in 1952.
Diving was under the control of the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association until 1985 when the New Zealand Diving Authority was formed. It was renamed Diving New Zealand in 2001.
New Zealand divers have been selected for Empire and Commonwealth Games since 1930, and have won four bronze medals, all in the 3-metre springboard competition: Jack Stewart (1950 and 1954), Mark Graham (1982) and Nicky Cooney (1990).
Rebecca Ewert was the first New Zealand diver to compete in an Olympics, in 1976 at Montreal. Since then Ann Fargher, Gary Lamb and Mark Graham (all 1984) and Tania Paterson (1992) have gained Olympic selection.
New Zealand divers have competed at numerous World Championships and World Cup events. In 2002 Kaitlyn White was victorious in the girls’ platform event (14–15 years) at the World Junior Diving Championships in Germany. Only White and Tania Paterson have won world junior titles.
A swimming all-rounder
New Zealander Lily Copplestone, whose swimming feats included breaststroke and diving championship titles and a 1929 attempt on Cook Strait, moved to Canada and coached a swimming team at the University of Western Ontario. She became interested in synchronised swimming, and under the name Billie MacKellar, went on to become an international coach and judge of the sport. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1993.
Synchronised swimming (often abbreviated to synchro) is a routine of elaborate and precise movements performed to music by solo swimmers, duets or teams. It is judged on technical merit and artistic impression. It developed both as a sport and a spectacle in Europe, North America and Australia from the late 19th century, and was popularised in the 1940s in the films of Esther Williams.
Synchro began in New Zealand in the 1930s and from the 1940s there were women’s groups in Dunedin and Auckland.
In the early 1960s the Auckland Synchronised Swimming Championships began, bringing together clubs from around the country. After the formation of more clubs in the early 1970s the first National Championships were held in 1979. The governing body, Synchro Swim New Zealand, was established about that year. Originally part of the NZASA, it became autonomous in 2004.
Since the late 1970s New Zealanders have participated in international competitions, including the Olympics from 1984 and the Commonwealth Games from 1986. At the Commonwealth Games Katie Sadleir won a bronze medal in the solo event in 1986, and Nina and Lisa Daniels won bronze in 2006.
Water polo is a competitive swimming sport for two teams, each consisting of six players and a goalie. The game is played in a pool with a goal at each end. Each team attempts to get the most goals by passing the ball from hand to hand.
The game was introduced to New Zealand in 1892, 23 years after it began in England. Christchurch had the first club, but soon more were formed in other towns and cities. The first national championships, contested between clubs, were won by Christchurch in 1892. In 1909 interprovincial competitions began. Initially a man’s sport, by the early 20th century it was also played by women.
From 1940 the game was administered by a board under the control of the NZASA. Since 1985 the New Zealand Water Polo Association has been the governing body. A national water polo team participated in the Auckland Empire Games in 1950, but New Zealand has not yet been represented at the Olympics.
Underwater hockey is a six-a-side game played by two teams who use small sticks to flick a puck (a lead disc) along the bottom of a pool and into a goal at either end. The game is 30 minutes long, with three minutes of half time. The governing body is Underwater Hockey New Zealand, and New Zealand teams are regarded as among the best in the world. In 2011 they won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the World Championships in Amsterdam.