On the official judging panel, former competitive diver Simon Latimer had one of the best seats in the house as the world’s best divers took to the pool at London’s Olympics.
The out gay Kiwi sportsman tells Same Same he was so excited and nervous to be joining the crew which decided who gets awarded so many of those precious gold, silver and bronze medals.
“I was the youngest judge selected and felt like a lot of people were watching me to make sure I justified my selection,” laughs the modest 30-year-old. “But once I was in the chair it all came naturally as it always does.
“I just tried to block out all the Olympic logos, all the crowd noise – it was like being at a rugby match – and focus on the each dive as it was performed. So once the first event was over, and all had gone well, I wasn’t nearly as nervous getting back into the chair for the remaining competitions, and it became more and more exciting!”
So how did Simon get picked to be a diving judge at the Olympics? “Selection is based on how well you have judged in international competitions throughout the previous four years,” he explains. “Olympic judges are picked from those who score at least 95% of the dives correctly, and those who have travelled broadly to competitions. In the four years leading up to the Olympics I judged 17 international competitions and achieved over 95% on each occasion.
“Basically, if you are judging well you get selected for bigger and bigger competitions. In my case I started judging the likes of World Junior Competitions and moved on to World University Games, then Commonwealth Games, World Championships and so on.”
Watching the diving coverage at home and cheering on our own Matthew Mitcham, some of us wondered why a few judges’ scores appeared to be crossed out:
Of course, Simon has to explain diving scoring methods a lot, and has the answer down-pat: “In individual diving there are seven judges, and only the middle three scores are counted – the two highest and lowest scores are discarded. The three remaining scores are multiplied by the dive’s degree of difficulty to give a score.
“In synchronised diving, three judges evaluate each individual diver, and only the middle score is retained,” he adds. “Five judges also evaluate the synchronisation and the three middle scores are retained. Complicated I know! Having several judges is a good idea though, as the officials are put in different positions and sometimes notice different errors in the dives. Usually the scores that are retained are about the same, so it works well.”
Along with the various sporting events, naturally the extravagant Opening and Closing Ceremonies were wonderful to experience first-hand in the gigantic stadium, says Simon.
“The opening ceremony was amazing because everyone was so excited about the event getting underway,” he smiles. “Everyone was looking forward to playing their part.
“Personally I enjoyed the closing ceremony even more, as all the hard work was done and the musical extravaganza was brilliant. Both ceremonies were massive – 80,000 spectators. It was amazing to be in that environment with all the lights, fireworks and acts.
“Most of us were a little sad when the Olympic Flame was extinguished as three weeks of great fun had come to an end.”
Being at the Games allowed Simon to experience many other history-making contests away from the diving platforms. “I got to go to all the aquatics events free of charge,” he says. “So I became a big fan of waterpolo, and I also got to see Michael Phelps set the Olympic record for most medals won.”
We wondered what kinds of cool mementoes he’s taking home with him from London. “Basically all the teams had items to swap with each other,” he tells us. “My favourite memento was a plaque given to me by the Russian Federation with their Olympic Logo.
“I also received soft toys, umbrellas from various federations – taking the piss out of the English summer – and even Olympic style condoms!”
And as we see on this page, Simon has photo albums full of amazing photos from the Games, including one with a certain out Aussie diver we’re very fond of…
The amazing video below captures some of the many highlights of the London 2012 Olympic Games.