ISHOF Class of 2014 Revisited: Honor Divers and Synchro Swimmers

ISHOF-Postponement

Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic and the postponement of the International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2020, ISHOF will be reliving some of their previous induction classes.  Today we revisit the divers and synchro swimmers from the ISHOF Class of 2014.  That year a total of twenty honorees were inducted; seven of which were open water swimmers.  In addition to the seven open water swimmers, there were three pool swimmers, Grant Hackett (AUS), Agnes Kovacs (HUN), Tom Malchow (USA), one diver, Peng Bo (CHN), two synchronized swimmers, Penny and Vicky Vilagos, (CAN), two water polo players, one male and one female, Carlo Silipo (ITA), and Karen Kuipers (NED), two coaches, one male and one female, Joseph Nagy (HUN, USA, CAN, ESP)(Swimming) and Charlotte Davis (USA) (Synchronized Swimming), and two Honor Contributors, Dale Petranech (USA) and Norman Sarsfield (GBR)


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Honor Diver

Peng Bo

Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

Peng Bo 2014 (CHN)

FOR THE RECORD: 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (3m springboard); 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (3m springboard synchro); 2002 ASIAN GAMES: gold (3m springboard synchro); 2001 UNIVERSIADE GAMES: gold (3m springboard synchro); 2003 UNIVERSIADE GAMES: gold (3m springboard synchro); 2005 UNIVERSIADE GAMES: gold (3m springboard synchro); 2007 UNIVERSIADE GAMES: gold (3m springboard, 3m springboard synchro).

He was born in Nanchang, capital of the Jiangxi province of China in 1981 and began training in diving at the age of six at the Nanchang Sports School. He was selected to be a member of the Jiangxi Provincial Diving Team in 1991, joined the diving team of the PLA Navy in 1995 and became a member of the National Team in 1998.

 Peng and his synchronized diving partner, Wang Kenan, won gold medals at the 2000 World University Games, at the 2001 FINA World Championships in Fukuoka and at the 2002 Asian Games.

In 2003, Peng won the Chinese national Championships in the 3 meter individual event and finished second at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

For the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Peng was selected to compete in both the 3 meter individual and synchronized event with partner Wang. First up was the synchro event and heading into the final round of dives, Peng and Wang held a comfortable lead. Then came disaster. A dreadful error by Wang resulted in a failed dive – a zero – and no medal.

Comeback, for diver Peng Bo, is a particularly appropriate word. You see, Bo means, “never give up” in Chinese. And eight days later, in the final of the individual event of the 3 meter springboard, Peng came back with a vengeance.

Overcoming his earlier disappointment, Peng Bo led from start to finish.

His victory was fourth of the six gold medals China would win in Athens, and with a margin of victory of over 30 points his was the most dominating performance in diving at the Games in Athens.

Artistic Swimming

Penny & Vicky Vilagos (CAN)

Vilagos

Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

FOR THE RECORD: 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver (duet); 1982 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (team); 1985 FINA WORLD CUP: gold (team); 1991 FINA WORLD CUP: silver (team); 1981 PAN-PACIFIC GAMES: gold (team); 1983 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: silver (duet), gold (team); 1980, 1981, 1984, 1991 SWISS OPEN: gold (duet); 1st DUET IN THE WORLD TO RECEIVE A PERFECT ‘10’ IN DUET; SEVEN TIME CANADIAN NATIONAL DUET CHAMPIONS.

A pair of overweight, uncoordinated twins is the way they describe themselves in elementary school. But when they were eight years old they discovered synchronized swimming; they had a natural talent for it and they loved it. It was the perfect sport for identical twins, swimming like mirrored images.

Just like another pair of Hall of Fame synchro twins, Karen and Sarah Josephson, Penny and Vicky Vilagos became inseparable in synchro duet swimming. They competed for National team coach Julie Sauvé at CAMO in Montreal. At age 17, in 1980, they were crowned National Duet Champions and expected to perform at the 1980 Moscow Olympics with synchro as a demonstration sport. When the boycott spoiled those plans, the Swiss Open Championships became their milestone as the pair received the world’s first duet perfect score of “10”, just beating out Hall of Famers, Tracie Ruiz and Candy Costie. Their routines were innovative and creative and over the next three years they were among the world’s top performers.

Then, in 1984, they failed to make the Olympic team. After fourteen years of training and striving, they had to accept that their Olympic dream would remain out of reach. They retired from swimming to finish their university degrees and start their careers.

Then, one day in 1990, while watching a synchro competition, they experienced an unexpected sensation and realized their Olympic dream was still alive. “Si on n’essaie pas, on ne le saura jamai!” they say – “If we don’t try, we’ll never know!”

The challenges were immense. They only had two years to train for the 1992 Olympic Games. In addition, they did not qualify for funding, so they had to try this comeback, while working full time jobs and practicing five hours a day each day after work. They also had to fund all their international travel to events while keeping up their grueling schedule, all the while not knowing if they’d even make the team. But they believed in themselves and with a team of four dedicated coaches to push them to their limits, they achieved an unprecedented comeback at the age of 27 and realized their Olympic dream by winning the duet silver medal in Barcelona. This is one of the great comeback stories in FINA history.

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