STORYCORPS CONVERSATION

Click the play button above to listen as Olympic champion divers Micki King and Jennifer Chandler Stevenson and Coach Ron O'Brien discuss the evolution of women's sports.

Jennifer Chandler, Ron O’Brien and Micki King

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Micki King started diving well before there were many competitive sports programs for young girls or women.

“When I started diving at the local YMCA, I did it for fun,” King said. “It was fun to twist and spin and try to make more somersaults than the kids who were diving with me in the YMCA pool. If it wasn’t for that YMCA in Pontiac, Michigan, which let women and girls use their pool twice a week, I wouldn’t be me today.”

Without Micki King, Jennifer Chandler Stevenson might not have succeeded King as the Olympic three-meter springboard champion.

“She didn’t know it, but she was my mentor and I looked up to her and I still do,” Chandler Stevenson said, adding that she copied King’s routine of arriving at the pool early and practicing her dives before anyone else was there.

And both King and Chandler Stevenson agreed that without coaches such as Ron O’Brien, women’s sports would not have advanced at the rate they did. O’Brien remembers bristling as the question, What was it like to coach a woman?

“I treated everybody the same,” said O’Brien, the longtime U.S. Olympic coach who was inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2019. “I expected the same out of them as I did from the men. In my mind, they were all equal.”

Be sure to listen to King (the 1972 Olympic gold medalist), Chandler Stevenson (the 1976 gold medalist) and O’Brien discuss the evolution of women’s sports and recall stories from their Olympic experiences.

 

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