On 12 February 1900, at the 2nd annual gala of the Cape Town Swimming Club - held in the dry dock - the diving competition had this report:

Diving: G Kohler 11 points; G Melville 9 points; WK Watson 7 points. There were numerous entries and some splendid diving was witnessed, although Kohler was an easy first. The diving-board was about 30 feet above the water.

Water carnivals were commonly held in the harbour, before suitable pools were available.

At the Diocesan College school gala of 1904 the senior diving title was won by DM Evans, while C Horne took the junior title. AH van der Byl won the school championship 150 yards race - for the Rhodes trophy. Clearly diving and swimming were part of school sports at the Cape.

In 1922 the following description of the diving competiton appeared:

Click here to see a 1943 video  of Denise Newman - British diving champion and swimmer - on a 1943 visit to South Africa

Oonagh Wittsitt was the only South African to win an international diving medal - she won gold at the 1930 Empire Games. After the war Geoff Mandy of Transvaal (and later Uitenhage in the Esatern Cape) dominated, with Willien Welgemeod and Ernie de Jong following him. Western Province's  Marcel Kooy was the post-war women's champion for a number of years - after she was also the SA Universities and an Egyptian swimming and diving champion.

A feature of the diving history in southern Africa was the dominance of Rhodesian divers during the 1960's and 70's. Seen below is the Rhodesian diving team to the South African championships at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, March 1967. 

Die Burger - 25 May 1996

Olympic grade divers left shivering at bottom step

BARCELONA 1992 saw a new SA compete for the first time in 36 years. A lot has happened since then, many sports persons have excelled to great heights, especially so in team sports. This was to expected as SA sports fans are generally team sport orientated. What many people don't realise, is that many individual sports have been left out in the cold. Diving (one of the top 5 sports in Asia, Europe and the USA), is one sport that has been adversely affected by lack of public support (due to lack of exposure) and by politics. Rob Costa is but one case scenario. ``In diving we do not receive any prize money or sponsorship. We attend regional, national and international meets at our own expense. This cost often exceeds R10000 per year.'' Rob is the current SA Senior 1 metre and 3 metre springboard div ing champion and has been since 1993. He is also the 10 metre platform champion and the synchronised diving champion. Being the first diver in SA to claim all four titles in one year, Rob has twice qualified for the 1996 Olympic Games team scoring 30 points over the Olympic A qualifying score of 540 points. Against all odds, Rob has competed overseas in the Commonwealth Games 1994, World University Games 1993 and 1995 and the All Africa Games 1995. He is the All Africa bronze medalist behind world champion Evan Stewart from Zimbabwe. Rob put in an impressive performance at the World Games in Japan in 1995, narrowly missing a semi-final placing by less than half a point, and beating Olympic performers from Japan, Korea, Kazakstan, Germany and the UK. This he has managed to do with only 1 week of training. ``Diving is a sport in which it takes months to reach peak performance for the season. In the WP there is not one heated indoor pool with diving facilities. This means that training comes to an abrupt halt in May when the water temperature plummets to 13C. A diver loses all sense of timing and co-ordination within two weeks once training has stopped.

``The only heated diving pool in SA is in Durban and the national diving team (2 from WP) does not get any financial support to be able to go to Durban to train for these all-important international events. We do not even get assurance from the SSA (diving's controlling body) or the NSC on our inclusion in the national team most often than not until 2 weeks before departure. However, one is still expected to perform at an international medal level, not having trained for 4 months, as all international meets are held in July (mid-winter for southern hemisphere),'' Rob says. ``Part of the stage of attack from the NSC and Nocsa has been that diving is an elite sport, not doing enough for development.

What is not realised, is that it takes at least ten years for a diver to reach international standard.'' In March this year the SA Olympic Trials were staged in Durban Sam Ramsamy, President of SSA and Nocsa, expressed the possibility of divers and swimmers being included in the SA Olympic team. Immediately after the tournament, the Olympic swimming team was announced, with diving to be announced on March 23.

The delayed announcement was according to SSA, to be able to scrutinise the divers scores, as they were of the impression that the scores were to subjective and inflated. Reports from two international A grade judges confirmed the scores were of an acceptable international standard and not inflated. ``It is suspect to believe that after having received the diving nominees on March 10 from the Diving Selectors Board, it took SSA until April 27 to decide the nominees would not be forwarded to Nocsa for final selection. It is also suspect that diving was not given the benefit of the doubt at Nocsa level.''

14 June 1995

Bellville diver to represent SA at varsity World Games

ROB COSTA, a springboard diver of Bellville, has been chosen to represent South Africa at the World University Games in Fukuoka, Japan, from August 15 to September 3. He has also represented SA at major international events such as the World University Games in Buffalo, USA, in 1993 and at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, and the World Games in Rome, Italy, last year. Rob has also provisionally qualified for the Olympic Games in Atlanta, with the third highest score recorded in SA, namely 550 points. He is looking forward to the games in Japan as an event of a lifetime and will be fortunate enough to have one of South Africa's best coaches, Mrs Lina Woodard (WP), to accompany him. Despite this impressive run, Rob cannot find a sponsor for this all important event in Japan. He is in desperate need of financial assistance.

Rob says any assistance will be greatly appreciated. Rob feels strongly that affirmative action should be greatly focused on, but after 8 years of swimming his best, he feels that recognition should also be given to athletes of the day. He does not feel that their potential should be hampered due to lack of public support as sport is one of the cornerstones of peace, excellence and culture exchanges. The frustration experienced due to lack of sponsorship and lack of facilities is hampering all progress of this sport, already considered Cinderella by uneducated members of the public, he said.

Yet SA has to compete with divers from countries such as China, Japan, Germany, USA and Canada, where the sport is considered one of the top 3 in the respective countries and divers train up to 6 hours per day (2000 hours more than SA on average per annum). Diving takes at least two months to peak. Training develops strength, split second reflex, timing, spatial awareness, speed, grace, co-ordination and balance, and includes mastering complex somersaults and twists, he said.

1964 article on South African diving by Ken Mullen

In 1971 SAASU published a Yearbook, contaiuning this report byformer Springbok diver Ernie de Jong


At the South African diving Championships, the Oonagh Whitsitt Trophy commemorates her achievements.





1959             W. Almond, Transvaal                                      51,95

1960             J.Ward, Rhodesia                                             63,62

1961             S. Morgenrood, Rhodesia                                   102*8

1962             L. Grant-Stuart, Rhodesia                                  122,58

1963             L. Grant-Stuart, Rhodesia                                  112,74

1964             L. Grant-Stuart, Rhodesia                                  135,79

1965             S. Bezuidenhout, Rhodesia                                 132,20

1966             L. Grant-Stuart, Rhodesia                                  145,59

1967             L. Grant-Stuart, Rhodesia                                  128,38

1968             L. Grant-Stuart, Transvaal                                 121,42

1969             Lena Pretorius, Rhodesia                                       115,47

1970             L. Pretorius, Rhodesia                                       378,90

1971             L. Woodard, Rhodesia

Ernest de Jong - and the de Jong diving centre in Pretoria

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