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Ballet off the Boards


Competitive diving is the high-bounding offspring of a marriage between an art form and exact science. The sport is a combination of grace, precision, style, beauty and timing, fused into athletic and esthetic triumph, especially when executed by the likes of the lithe young women shown here and on the following pages. These girls, the best in the U.S., are all pointing for the 1972 Olympics in Munich and, with one outstanding exception, they are all of high school or college age. Diving is a disciplined and rigorous endeavor, as fully demanding as gymnastics or figure skating, two sports with which it is sometimes compared. Diving, however, seems to be happily free of petty jealousies and the disruptive presence of skating mothers. The girls genuinely help and encourage one another, and next week they compete for the joy of winning in the National Amateur Athletic Union outdoors meet in Houston.

Pert and petite Cynthia Potter, 20, is the winner of nine national titles. A senior at Indiana University, she trains under Olympic Coach Hobie Billingsley. Five years ago she forsook ballet for diving full time because, she says, it was "more exciting to me."

The forte of Debby Lipman (left) is platform diving (far left), at which she ranks second in U.S. Bikinied Janet Ely (right) favors the long drop, too. "I'm afraid. That's why I like it. I'm overcoming fear," she says. Jerrie Adair (above and right, smiling) prefers the springboard. Plunging towards water (far right) is graceful Micki King, America's best all-round girl diver.

Arms rigid, toes curled, Micki King is a study in concentration in a backdive pike.