Earl Clark (USA)
Honor Diver (1972)
FOR THE RECORD: Only U.S. diver to win all platform and springboard events for every available U.S. diving title, both indoor and outdoor competitions in one year (1941). Developed technique for the execution of combination twisting and somersaulting dives.
Earl Clark’s brilliant diving career started in South Florida in the mid-thirties. A graduate of Miami Edison High School, Clark enrolled at Ohio State University the winter quarter of 1938 where he became a teammate of two great National Champions, Jim Patterson, and Al Patnik. From 1937 through 1941, these three men completely dominated U.S. diving.
As with Olympic double winners, Al White and Pete Desjardins, Clark excelled on both springboard and platform, yet WWII robbed him of an Olympic chance when both the 1940 and 194 games were cancelled.
As a Hall of Famer, at least three of Earl Clark’s accomplishments must be recorded:
Patnik’s only defeat–
Undefeated four years on springboard, Al Patnik made his final intercollegiate appearance at the NCAA Championships at Yale March 30, 1940. Teammate Earl Clark had been his most formidable opponent for two years. In a thrilling contest which was decided on Clark’s last dive, a forward one and one-half somersault with one twist. Earl earned an almost perfect score of four 10s and one 9 from the panel of five judges, winning by a close margin of 1.06. Thus, Clark became the only diver to defeat Patnik over a four year span.
Diving’s only Grand Slam–
During his senior year (1941), Earl established a fantastic record by capturing every available U.S. diving title: Big Ten, National Collegiate and National AAU–springboard and platform–indoor and outdoor, the only diver in history to do so. Altogether Clark garnered a total of 12 major titles. He was National AAU 10 meter platform king for three years (1939-40-41).
Twist on the long axis–
According to Mike Peppe, Ohio State Swimming and Diving Coach, Clark’s greatest contribution to the diving world was his development of a unique and spectacular technique of the execution of combination twisting and somersaulting dives. In 1932, the NCAA diving rules committee added the new forward one and one-half somersaults with “full” (one) twist to the list of optional dives.
Subsequently, practically all of the outstanding competitive divers in the country chose this dive as an optional. The commonly accepted style of execution was to perform the somersault first, followed by a late and lazy twist while still in the pike position, which presented the problem of securing sufficient time and space to achieve a straight drop. However, in 1938, Earl Clark changed all this by combining the first somersault simultaneously with a swift inverted layout twist at the peak of the lift, then “squaring” or “checking” the dive at board level in open pike position, and thus providing ample opportunity to secure a straight, clean entry.
This revolutionary pirouetting style of twisting was universally practiced by future skilled U.S. divers, who continued to experiment with Clark’s innovation, thereby opening the door for the invention of many new fascinating combinations of multiple twist and somersault dives.
Clark, a fine all-round athlete, also participated in gymnastics, handball, squash, boxing, wrestling, tennis, and was amateur golf champion of Florida. In 1941, he was runner-up for the Sullivan award, designating his country’s finest amateur athlete.