Passages: Olympic Diving Medalist Patty Elsener Dies at 89

Patty Elsener Homan won two medals at the 1948 Olympic Games. Photo Courtesy: Elsener Homan Family

Patty Elsener (Homan), an Olympic diving medalist, died on Sept. 29 at age 89.

Elsener won the silver medal on platform in the 1948 Olympics, also winning the bronze medal on the 3-meter board. She is an honoree at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF).

In the summer of 1947, after graduation from high school, Elsener went to Santa Barbara to train with Hall of Fame Coach Fred Cady. On the weekends, Vi Cady took care of her. During the week she lived in a rented room over a garage. But from September to almost February of 1948, she became very ill, moved back home and hardly did any diving.

It was coach Jimmy Hughes who helped her rebuild her diving. He introduced her to platform diving which was difficult for her because she had acrophobia, a fear of heights. It was very difficult for Patty Elsener to climb the 33 feet of stairs. She had to learn tower diving in a very short time. Not having the proper build-up, she kept hitting her left wrist into her head on entries causing a lump on her head and a badly damaged wrist. Consequently, the Detroit Olympic Trials of 1948 were tough for Elsener. But although she dove with a bandaged wrist, she made the Olympic Team in the two events.

At the London Games, Fred Cady didn’t want Patty to further injure her wrist, so he banned any platform practice until after the 3-meter springboard was over. On the springboard, she won the bronze medal, narrowly defeated by Vicki Draves and Zoe Ann Olson, creating an American sweep.

After receiving the bronze medal, Cady asked if she wanted to drop out of the tower event. Her answer, an emphatic “NO.” She was not going to give up a spot on the team that someone else could have had. She felt it was her duty and obligation to dive. She dove to a silver medal for the 10 meter platform just behind  Draves and ahead of Birte Christofferse of Denmark.

She went on to dive on scholarship at Purdue.

Patty Elsener, who married Earl Homan, was a mother of three as well as a grandmother and great-grandmother to four.

Check out her full Hall of Fame bio here.

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2 years ago

RIP Patty.