Official website of 16th FINA World Masters Championships 2015 in Kazan

John Deininger: These boys here dive only from 27 metres – they are just children!

19.08.2015, 12:41 Sport
John Deininger, who has represented Lithuania at the FINA World Masters Championships in Kazan, started competing in 1974, in the 35-39 age group. At present he’s 76 and he has already earned 3 gold medals at this tournament.

Participation in water shows, adherence to the swimming for life principles, encouragement of athletes through his personal example and understanding what it is like – to be in midair – this is the life story of John Deininger, an athlete, a diving enthusiast and an inspirer.

Surely, dives from 100-130 feet during water shows earned him good money but John was aware that he will not experience the Olympic fame there. After he started to compete at the FINA World Masters Championships, he began a new chapter in his life.  Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Finland, Brazil, Lithuania, Ireland, these are the places where he was crowned champion. He set more than 10 US national records and 10 world records.  

– When did you start diving?

– I’ve been diving all my life, from the age of 12. I chose it because it was available, and I was a good tumbler at the YMCA in the United States. I did tumbling, gymnastics. Then I went to a swimming pool and did the same thing from the springboard, and I liked it. It was softer than the mat.  So I kept doing it forever. Right now I’m 76… so I’ve been diving 60 something years. I started the Masters programme in the Unites States 40 years ago. And it started small, got larger and maybe 20 years ago I brought some divers to Moscow to show the Russians that you can still dive after 25. We had a little competition and exhibition. And then the Europeans began to come to our competitions and have their own. Actually now the European system is bigger than in the United States.

– So everything started in the United States?

– Yes, that’s right. But we have people from all different skills, you know, beginners to divers who have been diving for quite a while.

– What Championships did you take part in?

– I’m the US national champion and I’m the world’s professional high diving champion.

– High diving? No kidding? From 27 metres?

– More. 40 metres. It was 1964, and it was the first professional high diving championship. It was in Toronto, Canada. These boys here dive only from 27 metres – they are just children (laughs).

– Did you perform from a 5m platform today?

– No, from a 10-metre platform (laughs). It was Ok. I needed more height though, it was too low (laughs).

– Are you nervous when you jump from a platform?

– No, not nervous. But I need to be in a better shape. I have a little bit too much weight. But I’m going to train for Budapest.

– What does the Masters tournament mean to you?

– It’s a lovely event, we have lots of fun. And I look at it as much as social as it is sport. Getting around together with other divers is why come to international events. And my coach is from Lithuania and I’m doing business in Lithuania and so I have adopted their team as my team and it lets my dive at European Championships also because they don’t invite Americans to normal European championships but I get to go because I’m a team member of Lithuania.

– And do you have any support from your country?  

– No. We have no support for internationals. We have national championships in the United States. And now USA Diving supports that a bit.

– How many medals have you earned throughout your life?

– I have more medals that anyone in the world. Even the Olympic champions, I have more medals than any of them.

– More than 100?

– Oh, 400. I have some silver medals but mostly gold - after forty years.

– Do you have a special room for them?

– When I go home, I throw them in a box, a big box (laughs). My office is in my house now. And when my customers come to my office, they see photos and medals hanging on the walls. I remember some of the events, not all but some of them.

– What is your business?

– I was an architect. I design commercial and residential buildings.  

– And sports buildings too?

– Yes, them too.

– And what do you think of the Aquatics Palace?

– This place is beautiful. It is bigger than anything I’ve ever designed. It’s a very nice facility.

– What will you recommend to young athletes?

– Well, to train hard, of course, and to believe in yourself that you can do it and it will happen. Not always do you win the national championships or go to the Olympics, but you can enjoy what you are doing. If they enjoy it, then they will get better and better and better. If it’s only work they are going to stay at one level. But they will have to like what they are doing and they will get that.

– What about swimming?

– Swimming? I don’t swim. I only get to the side of the pool to get out after the dive. That’s as far as I swim.

– Are you going to stop some day?

– Well, I think nature will stop me (laughs). That’s the only thing that will stop me.  

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