7 Aug 2018

Throwing in the towel an essential for diving success

Towels are more important than you would think.

The divers twist, knot and wring it out, they throw it from the high platform to the floor, and yes, they also use it to dry themselves. 

The little towel, called the 'shammy' or 'sammie', is a must for most of the divers at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships competing at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.

The water-absorbent towel comes in all colours and shapes, usually in a standard size of 33cm x 40cm. But it is more than just a towel for many divers.

"The shammy is something special and it is not just used to dry off. It is a part of you," said Italian diver Laura Bilotta, who competes in the 1m springboard.

You use it for many things. It is an accessory and something you really need to have.

Bilotta now has a black and blue version, and added: "A shammy can last one to a maximum two years. I have kept all of them."

Most shammies seen in Edinburgh are in light, bright colours and the most striking ones are tie-dyed.

"I like colours that you can see and can be impressed with," Giovanni Tocci (ITA) said. "At the worlds I had an orange one. Now I have a blue one. The shammy is important, we always use it. I think it's fundamental for a diver."

The towel is sometimes nicknamed the sammie, after double Olympic Champion, doctor and later coach, Sammy Lee (USA). According to legend, he started producing and selling towels, which can absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid, in the USA. It comes in handy in training and competition when the divers complete several dives in a relatively short period.

For some athletes, their sammie is a safety blanket, something to hold during nerve-racking competition as they prepare to execute complicated, acrobatic moves from the 10m platform or the springboards.

"You can't deny it, the cloth is a kind of good luck charm for each diver. Everyone likes to have it with him and nothing should happen to it," German diver Maria Kurjo explained. "Everyone has their own little ritual with it. One diver ties a knot in it and the next diver twists it in three different directions before throwing it down."

Lou Massenberg (GER) said. "It is the last thing you touch before your dive and you need to have a good feeling."

"I have to tie the cloth into a knot before each dive, I don't know why, but I do it always like that," said Oleg Kolodiy (UKR).

For others, the shammy is just a necessary tool.

"It is not a toy, but a professional thing that is necessary for the preparation of the dive. You need to take off the liquid so you don't lose your body position when you are spinning," Evgenii Kuznetsov (RUS) added.

"The shammy serves me in the first place to dry myself so I do not slip," Damien Cely (FRA) said. "I also keep dry so I won't get cold, but that is the only use for me. There are a lot of divers who follow certain rituals, but I do not fall into that category at all."