McCormick, Patricia (1930—)
McCormick, Patricia (1930—)
American diver who was the only woman in Olympic diving history to achieve a "double-double," winning two gold medals in each of two consecutive Olympic Games . Born Patricia Keller in Seal Beach, California, on May 12, 1930; daughter of Robert Keller and Harriet Keller; married Glenn McCormick (a diving coach), in 1949; children: one son and one daughter, Kelly McCormick, also a diver.
Won gold medals in springboard and platform events, Olympic Games, Helsinki, Finland (1952); won gold medals in springboard and platform events, Olympic Games, Melbourne, Australia (1956); named Associated Press Athlete of the Year and Sullivan Award winner (1956); was inaugural inductee (with Katherine Rawls ) into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1965); named to International Women's
Sports Hall of Fame (1984); named to U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (1985).
Growing up on the California coast, Patricia McCormick was lured into the waters off Seal Beach and Muscle Beach at an early age, and performed her first aerial acrobatics on her surfboard. As a teenager, she focused on diving, refining her technique at the Los Angeles Aquatics Club where she practiced six days a week, sometimes executing up to 100 dives a day. At age 14, she won her first title, and in 1951, at age 22, she became the first diver to win all five national championships. Difficult dives were especially appealing to McCormick, who frequently attempted maneuvers considered too risky for men. Her ambition came at a price; during one medical examination, a doctor discovered a scar on her scalp and several at the base of her spine, as well as a variety of impact welts, laceration, and chipped teeth. "I've seen worse casualty cases," he told her, "but only where a building caved in."
Although she had missed making the 1948 Olympic team by a mere two points, McCormick was ready for the 1952 games in Helsinki, having married her diving coach, Glenn McCormick, who helped her stick to her rigorous training routine. Despite considerable pressure (American women had captured the gold in the springboard event since it was introduced for women at the 1920 Antwerp Games), McCormick won both the springboard and platform events. "Helsinki was really fun," she said later. "It was like receiving your first kiss. You never know what to expect." She also recalled the thrill of standing on the top step of the podium to receive her medal. "I still get goose pimples when I think of the national anthem. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of it."
Extraordinary as it was, McCormick's Olympic triumph commanded little attention back in the United States. So little, in fact, that when she arrived home from Helsinki, her neighbor inquired as to whether she had been on vacation. Following the games, McCormick resisted offers to turn professional, setting her sights on the next Olympic competition. In the interim, she became pregnant with her first child but did not use her "delicate condition" as an excuse to slow down. She continued to train up until two days before the birth of her son, who arrived just five months ahead of the Olympic trials. McCormick was one of the first to prove that women could successfully train as athletes during pregnancy.
At the Melbourne Games, McCormick, at age 26, was the "old lady" of the team, making her performance in the competition all the more extraordinary. She won the springboard event easily, beating runner-up Jeanne Stunyo 142.36 to 125.89. The platform competition proved slightly more elusive. With only two dives remaining, she suddenly found herself in second place behind teammate Paula Jean Myers . McCormick recalled telling herself, "You can't go out now after so many years of hard work without a fight." Although her fifth dive went well, she was still in second place, increasing the pressure to make the sixth dive, a difficult full twisting one-and-one-half, as near perfect as possible. After executing the plunge of her life, McCormick could only wait and hope. When Myers' dive fell short, McCormick walked away with her second gold medal, and her "double-double."
After 1956, a banner year in which she also won the Associated Press Athlete of the Year award and the Sullivan Trophy, McCormick retired from competition. She later opened a diving camp, where one of her prize students, her daughter Kelly McCormick , trained for her own career in diving. With a style described as "eerily similar" to her mother's, Kelly went on to win her own silver and bronze medals in consecutive Olympic Games.
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