Pat McCormick, the lone female diver to sweep the individual springboard and platform golds at multiple Olympics, has died at age 92, according to USA Diving.
McCormick died in an assisted living home on Tuesday in Orange County, California, according to the Seal Beach Sun.
McCormick won both individual diving events at the Olympics in 1952 and 1956, doing so the second time after the birth of son Tim earlier that year.
As a young teen, McCormick would dive off the Naples Canal Bridge in Southern California, aiming to splash people on boats, which led to phone calls to the police, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum.
In structured diving, she performed dives disallowed in women’s competition due to their perceived level of difficulty, according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
McCormick said she was motivated by missing the 1948 Olympic team by a small margin at age 18.
“From that moment on, I knew I wanted to not [only] go on to the next Olympics, but I knew I wanted to do something that no one has ever done, and that’s to try to compete in two Olympics and win the double-double,” she said.
As the 1952 Helsinki Games approached, McCormick gained more competitive drive. She said others tapped Zoe Ann Olsen, the 1948 Olympic springboard silver medalist, as the event favorite after Olsen unretired.
“That just made me furious,” McCormick said.
After winning both golds in Finland, McCormick continued her training — 100 dives per day, six days per week — and also swam a half-mile per day until two days before her son was born in 1956.
“When I first saw Pat McCormick dive, I said, oh boy, that gal will never make it,” fellow Olympic diving champion Sammy Lee said, pointing out several flaws in her technique. “But that girl, she worked so hard, and she was so determined. That’s what makes her great. She has determination, and she was one tremendous competitor.
“The only problem with Pat is if everybody dived lousy, Pat dived lousy. If everybody dived like an Olympic champion, Pat dived better. She’s got that kind of competitive instinct. She’s not going to let anybody beat her.”
As the 1956 Melbourne Games approached, McCormick juggled motherhood with Olympic prep. Her husband and coach, Glenn, also began coaching other members of the U.S. team who had come to train with them.
“It was really difficult because here I was, training for the Olympics myself,” she said. “I had a small child. I was fixing breakfast for [the other divers], and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I’m the star, supposedly. Something’s got to be done about this. They should be helping me.'”
In her final Olympic event, McCormick rallied from fourth place going into the finals, the last two of five platform dives.
“I’ll never forget riding back in the bus [going into the finals], I had tears in my eyes,” she said. “The girl that was in first place was my teammate. I really had to make peace with myself, and I had to feel that whatever happened, I would be happy with the result. Well I went into the competition, and I did two of the best dives I’ve ever done.
“I realized that I had won everything there is to win.”
In retirement, she traveled the world with fellow Olympic champions like Jesse Owens, modeled, earned a nursing degree, traversed the Amazon River and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
She also established a non-profit foundation to help high-risk children stay in school and attend college.
McCormick held the U.S. female record of four career Olympic gold medals for 36 years until sprinter Evelyn Ashford and swimmer Janet Evans matched her in 1992. Speed skater Bonnie Blair broke the record in 1994.
McCormick and countryman Greg Louganis are the only divers to win the springboard and the platform at multiple Olympics.
McCormick held the Olympic record of four diving gold medals alone until Louganis tied it in 1988.
They shared the record until synchronized diving events were added to the Olympic program in 2000, increasing the number of diving events from two to four.
McCormick’s daughter, Kelly, won Olympic springboard diving silver and bronze medals in 1984 and 1988.