Adlerz swoops to conquer in the diving pool

Swedish diver Erik Adlerz enjoyed a spectacular second appearance at the Olympic Games, winning two gold medals and making history in the process.

Adlerz had been just a week shy of his 16th birthday when he competed at the 1908 Games in London. On that occasion, the young prodigy bowed out at the first round of the 10m platform event. However, four years later, in the city of his birth, he was to make a far greater impact.

By 1912, Adlerz had already won the first of his 22 national championship titles, and was highly fancied for a shot at gold. He entered the 10m and plain high diving events.

The plain high diving competition required each of the 31 participants to complete five dives: a standing dive and two running dives from the 10-metre height, and one of each from five metres. Adlerz topped one of the four first round groups to reach the final, recording the joint best score alongside compatriot John Jansson. However, according to the Official Report, Adlerz was “in a class by himself”.

The final would be completely dominated by the Swedes, who accounted for six of the eight finalists. Adlerz produced a beguiling performance. “His pace and power in the dive were extraordinary and, in each dive, he went at such a speed that no little twisting of the body arose, this lowering his points considerably,” enthused the Official Report. He scored seven points and finished in the gold medal position, comfortably ahead of Jansson, who won bronze, and silver winner Hjalmar Johansson. The 10m event saw Adlerz succeed in similarly convincing style. A superb score of six points won Adlerz his heat, taking him through to the final on 15 July.

“Adlerz dived with extraordinary speed and power, and with great confidence,” says the Official Report of his performance in the decider, although a poor performance in his final dive – the flying somersault – led to the German Albert Zurner running him reasonably close. But his victory was clear enough, winning with seven points to Zurner’s 10. Gustaf Blomgren, another Swede, finished third.

Adlerz was back in Olympic action eight years later in Antwerp, where he had to settle for silver in the 10m platform. After retiring, he spent 25 years working as a coach for the Swedish Swimming Federation. He died in 1975, at the age of 83.