Betty Becker Pinkston (USA)
Honor Diver (1967)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1924 gold (springboard), silver (platform); 1928 gold (platform); NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1m, 3m springboard; MIDDLE ATLANTIC STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: age 15.
Betty Becker Pinkston is the distaff side of the first husband-wife team taken in to the Swimming Hall of Fame. She follows her late husband, Clarence Pinkston, by one year. Both were Olympic diving champions and Betty the first of many Olympic champions coached by her famous husband who turned them out in both swimming and diving.
Betty was born in Philadelphia in 1903. At age 8, she recovered from a very severe case of diphtheria which left her in a very nervous state. On her doctor’s recommendation, she took up swimming. Through her father, she became a member of the Turngemeninde Club, where they held a monthly handicap competition among members. They were judged on form and diving besides swimming. At the age of 12, Betty entered national competition, taking seconds and thirds in swimming. It was at this time that she became very interested in diving. She won the Middle Atlantic State Championship at 15 and was hooked forever. Diving held a special attraction for Betty. She loved the sport and eagerly practiced it every day. Having no 3 meter board to practice on in Philadelphia, she moved to Atlantic City where she joined the Ambassador Swim Club to work at her specialty every day.
Betty narrowly missed the 1920 Olympic team. “Politics,” claimed her outspoken friend, Ethleda Bleibtry. By 1922, Betty Becker had won her first national springboard diving championship at 3 meters. She repeated in 1923, adding the National 1 meter in 1924. In defending her 3 meter title at Pasadena, California, in 1924, Betty was defeated by Carol Fletcher. Betty lost her title but met her future husband, Clarence Pinkston, the Olympic 10 meter diving champion in 1920.
1924 was the Olympic year. Betty had to make the team or take a chance on “Pinky” going to Paris without her. She won her Olympic gold medal in August and her gold ring in December. Her Olympic scores were first in the springboard, second by 1/8 point off the 10 meter tower.
In April of 1926, Betty Becker Pinkston went to Tampa, Florida, where she won the 3 meter National Diving Championship. Four months later, on August 11th, she was another kind of double winner as Clarence and Betty Pinkston became the proud parents of twins, Betty and Clarence, Jr.
In 1927, her husband turned pro “to feed the twins”, and became coach at the Detroit Athletic Club. With help from babysitters at home and her husband at work, Betty continued to dive. In 1928 she made another Olympic team, traveled to Amsterdam and won her second gold medal, this time the 10 meter Platform, where she had missed by 1/8 of a point in 1924. The date of her Olympic win, August 11th, naturally was the second birthday of her twins.
Between them, the Pinkstons — husband and wife– won 7 medals in three Olympics. Betty and Clarence Pinkston spent their adult lives coaching swimming and diving in Detroit, helped organize the Michigan Inner-Club Swimming Association, prototype of suburban country club leagues everywhere.
Clarence Pinkston died in 1965. His wife Betty was here to receive his Hall of Fame honoree awards in 1966, and comes back to receive her own in 1967.