March 25, 2023 7:43 am

Particular to the Tribune-Herald

Some of us don’t forget the dread of getting a boy or girl at swimming lessons, watching large youngsters go off the higher dive and questioning if the teacher was at some point going to contact on us to scale the ladder and take that terrifying leap.

Other folks recall that moment really differently.

As a young girl in Houston, Cynthia Potter couldn’t wait for the opportunity to ascend to the prime of the 3-meter springboard and begin mastering how to do all the twists and turns, frontflips and backflips.

Her parents set up prerequisites to make certain she was prepared and, possibly, to delay the moment when their youngster began flinging herself by means of the air.

“I was fascinated when I saw people today going off the diving boards,” mentioned Potter, who initial encountered the significant swimming pool and diving boards at the county club exactly where her family members had been members in Houston. “I was like ‘Can I do that?’

People today are also reading…

“The initial point that occurred was they had a 50-meter pool. I do not know that I had ever observed a 50-meter pool prior to. It was an Olympic pool. The rule in my family members was that you had to be capable to swim the length of the 50-meter pool prior to you would be permitted to take diving lessons. I was only about six or seven years old. I jumped in that pool and I mentioned ‘Let me at it.’ I mentioned ‘Now can I do it?’”

Potter, 72, and her two older sisters had been encouraged by their father to engage in all varieties of activities — art, music, dance, sports. In brief, if it was provided to girls in the 1950s, Potter and her sisters had been going to get a opportunity to test their abilities at it.

Eventually, Potter would be the middle of 5 sisters. And probably the one particular born without having worry.

“I really like height and speed,” Potter mentioned. “I liked the believed of undertaking gymnastics in a way. They didn’t genuinely have gymnastics applications when I was expanding up. But they had a thing referred to as acrobatics. And so I loved that. Handstands and cartwheels and issues like that. I likely would’ve accomplished some gymnastics if it had been prolific with a lot of applications like there at some point had been.”

In time, the Houston location became a nursery for globe-class gymnasts. But Potter was destined to be Texas’ small flying, diving kangaroo.

Potter will enter the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in April on the strength of her 28 diving national championships, 3 globe diver of the year titles and an Olympic bronze medal from the 1976 Montreal Games.

Potter competed in the Olympics in 1972 and 1976. Maybe her most effective opportunity for Olympic gold was wiped out when the United States boycotted the 1980 Games in the former Soviet Union.

She has remained closely involved with the sport of diving as a well-known colour commentator for NBC, ESPN and other individuals.

Obtaining great luck at the Shamrock

Her initial spotlight, on the other hand, came at the magnificent pool at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel in Houston. Potter educated and competed as a swimmer and diver and performed with the water ballet (a precursor for synchronized swimming) at the Shamrock Hilton from prior to her 10th birthday till she graduated from higher college.

“The Shamrock Hilton had this remarkable International Club that the public could join. Along with the International Club came water shows that had been place on when there would be large corporate or celebrity dinners, large events at the Shamrock Hilton,” Potter mentioned. “They would have tables set up all about the pool on the pool deck. It was sort of a fancy evening and we would place on water shows. I was concentrating on diving, but I did them all. They required performers.

“I would do a small bit of the water ballet. It was a musical quantity and we would be going off the platform when the water ballet participants had been in the pool. So it was an extravaganza and we earned funds for what we referred to as our travel fund. When we went to competitions we had some funds to defer the expenses of traveling and staying in hotels.”

Potter competed in Amateur Athletic Union national events all through her higher college years. But she hadn’t planned to make a profession of diving beyond higher college.

Small did she know she had caught the focus of Indiana University and United State Olympic diving coach Hobie Billingsley. The esteemed coach had told other individuals in the diving globe, such as Potter’s coach Nany Duty Cunningham, that the young Houstonian was like a small kangaroo.

Potter, unaware of her expanding fame in United State diving circles, had been accepted to the University of Texas. She had produced arrangements to area with a pal in a UT dorm and go to college there in spite of the reality that females weren’t even permitted in the Longhorn swimming team’s pool at the time.

Then a telephone contact in the late spring of 1968 changed Potter’s trajectory.

“The conversation sort of went like, ‘Do you know who I am?’” Potter mentioned, recalling Billingsley’s introduction. “I feel I was likely wetting my pants due to the fact I was so excited to speak to this wonderful diving coach. I mentioned, ‘Yeah, I know who you are. You are Hobie Billingsley, You are one particular of the most effective diving coaches in the globe.’ I do not don’t forget all the information. He mentioned, ‘Do you want to come to Indiana?’ My initial response was, ‘What for?’ I didn’t get it at all.”

Obtaining a residence in Indiana

Even though the Hoosiers didn’t have a women’s group, Billingsley had an agreement with the college to let him train a compact choice of females divers at the Indiana group pool. He wanted Potter to come train with him and the men’s group. He also wanted her to come to Indiana in time to train for the 1968 Olympic trials that summer time.

Potter was sold. She quickly discovered out that going to Indiana and coaching complete time as a diver was her version of Paradise.

Nonetheless, she had to sell the concept to her mom.

“I mentioned, ‘Mom, that was the diving coach from Indiana.’” Potter remembers. “She mentioned, ‘Oh effectively, that is good.’ I mentioned, ‘I’m going to Indiana.’ She looked at me like I had 3 heads and mentioned, ‘You are not.’ I mentioned, ‘Yeah, here’s how it is going to operate.’ Perhaps a month later right after I had graduated higher college and gotten my acceptance to IU and all that, my mom and I got on an airplane.”

Potter produced the 1968 U.S. Olympic group as an alternate, but didn’t travel to the Mexico City Games. Rather, she concentrated on freshman year research at Indiana.

In 1972, Potter produced the Olympic group for the 3-meter springboard and ten-meter platform. An untimely foot injury may well have kept her off the podium in the springboard, her strongest discipline, as she completed seventh.

Climbing the medal stand

She returned to the Olympics in 1976 in Montreal and this time placed third in the springboard, claiming her Olympic bronze medal.

“Seventy-six was sort of a transition period for women’s diving,” Potter mentioned. “We had been going from dives that had been a small bit simpler to complicated dives. There had been a lot of divers that had been attempting to make the selection, myself incorporated, on irrespective of whether we would do the complicated dives and danger that even although they had been greater in degree of difficulty or irrespective of whether we would stick with our significantly less risky dives. I was caught in in between that.”

Potter produced the 1980 U.S. Olympic group and received a Congressional Gold Medal in spot of a opportunity to compete in Moscow. It is clear from her memory of that period that, whilst she understands the complicated selection President Jimmy Carter faced, she’d nonetheless trade the medal she received for a opportunity to win Olympic gold.

Nonetheless, Potter remained a vibrant component of the U.S. diving neighborhood. She coached collegiate diving for 13 years with stints at SMU and Arizona. She has been a fixture in American diving broadcasts and has had a opportunity to at instances operate with her husband, sports producer Peter Lasser.

As she prepares to enter the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, it is clear from a conversation with Potter that she retains some of the power of the girl who couldn’t wait to jump in the pool and earn her opportunity to grow to be a diver.

“It at some point came down to dance and diving,” Potter mentioned. “I’m not saying I was wonderful at each, but I was improved than just typical. I loved them each. I constantly say in my evaluation, I constantly speak about the crossover in between a great or seasoned dancer and a springboard diver. The principal components there are the balance that you have to have. Off a spring board the rhythm and the timing are massive. If you really like dance and you do it frequently, you are going to be anticipated to discover how to remain in time with the music and be rhythmic. I feel that was a massive advantage for me, expanding up loving dance and attempting to move my physique to the music and sort of hone my abilities in time and rhythm.”

Potter’s achievements show a diver worthy of her induction in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame as effectively as her upcoming entry in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Her path to these issues came about due to the fact Billingsley sought out a higher college senior and gave her an chance.

“One telephone call — thank goodness I was residence and answered the phone — changed my life forever,” Potter mentioned.

Leave a Reply