Patricia Joan McCormick life and biography

Patricia Joan McCormick picture, image, poster

Patricia Joan McCormick biography

Date of birth : 1930-05-12
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Seal Beach, California, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Sports
Last modified : 2010-06-24
Credited as : Olympic diver, ,

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Patricia Joan McCormick (also known as: Patricia Keller, Patricia Keller McCormick) born May 12, 1930 in Seal Beach, California, United States is an American diver.

Women divers gained popularity in the years before World War I, as much for their attractiveness as for their skill. Until Pat McCormick entered the scene in the late 1940s, displaying remarkable agility and toughness, no one dominated the sport. The first and only woman diver to win two gold medals in two consecutive Olympic Games (the double-double), McCormick earned the prestigious Sullivan Award in 1956 as the nation's top amateur athlete and became the first woman diver inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She belongs among the greatest names in Olympic history.

Raised Around Water

Pat McCormick was born Patricia Keller in Seal Beach, California, on May 12, 1930. Living above a grocery store and with little money in the family, she and her two older brothers were raised mostly by their mother, a nurse. Her alcoholic father was a sporadic presence in her life, although his belief in her was an important influence. In a 1999 interview with Dr. Margaret Costa for the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, McCormick described her early years: "I worked to help support the family from the time I was 10 years old. My brother was responsible for my involvement in athletics because I wanted to be just like him. We were good little urchins who had a lot of fun."

McCormick spent most of her spare hours swimming around the channels and the harbor and hanging out at Muscle Beach, where she enjoyed being tossed around by the brawny, acrobatic men. This pastime helped her develop strength and flexibility. Her love of competition prompted her to participate in small swim meets against anyone willing to race her. In her first meet, a two-mile pier-to-pier swim, she came in second. (There was only one other girl in the race.) But the trophy she received stoked her desire for more. At fourteen, she won the Long Beach city women's one-meter diving gold cup. A coach from the Los Angeles Athletic Club soon took notice and invited her to join the Club to begin rigorous training.

The training did little to interfere with her academics or social life at Wilson High School, but she was allowed to miss her last class period to take the trolley to Los Angeles. The 5'4", 125 pound diver trained for a year before entering local competitions. She went on to place second in the 1947 National Platform Championship. Her brother borrowed money so she could attend the 1948 Olympic tryouts, where she missed making the team by less than a point.

Determined to Succeed

Robert Condon, in his book Great Women Athletes of the 20th Century, quoted McCormick as saying, "That defeat was the greatest thing that ever happened to me because all of a sudden I knew I could win the Olympics . . . I realized that at Los Angeles I was working with world-class athletes every day."

She married Glenn McCormick in 1949 and started competing under her married name. Glenn, an airline pilot and aspiring Olympic diver, later became her coach. McCormick's training regimen consisted of 80 to 100 dives a day, six days a week. She persevered despite various injuries--a gash on her head requiring fifty stitches, chipped teeth, welts, a loose jaw, and a cracked rib.

The hard work quickly paid off. That same year, she won the National Platform Championship. She did it again in 1950, adding the one-meter and three-meter springboard titles. She won all five national titles in 1951. In all, she won twenty-seven national titles. She also won three gold medals in two appearances at the Pan Am Games.

The Double-Double

McCormick's biggest splash came as an Olympian. At the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, she swept both events, the platform and the springboard. She repeated those gold medal-winning performances at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, even though she was competing just months after giving birth to her son. It wasn't until 1988 that a man, Greg Louganis, was able to replicate McCormick's double-double.

Her Olympic success led to a long list of honors, including the Babe Zaharias Trophy, the Associated Press and the United Press International's Woman Athlete of the Year, Sports Illustrated's Athlete of the Year, and the Helms Hall of Fame North American Athlete of the Year.

McCormick's daughter Kelly also became a diver. Kelly won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics and a bronze in 1988, making the McCormicks the only mother-daughter duo in Olympic history to become medal winners.

Sharing the Olympic Spirit

McCormick's persistence paid off while combating another opponent: life after the Olympics. In a profile issued by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in 1996, McCormick recalled the empty feeling that can hit athletes once Olympic glory fades: "You see, all our lives we have had someone to tell us what to do, how to do it. Then, your whole life dissolves into that one moment. When you step up on that victory stand, you're going to be deserted. All the support systems you had are going after their next project. They can't tell you how to handle success, they can only tell you how to achieve it. The trick is to stay on that victory stand."

Realizing the need for an education, McCormick enrolled at Long Beach City College in the 1960s, graduating thirteen years later. During an interview with Dr. Margaret Costa for the Amateur Athletic Association of Los Angeles, she explained the reason for her life-long motivation and self-discipline: "Not having the skills to do something I want to do has been the story of my life. Whether it was college or diving or being a parent, I have had to develop my own skills and knowledge on my own in order to be successful."

McCormick still enjoys an active sports life, especially horse riding, scuba diving, golfing, body surfing, and skiing. She has since focused her optimism and resolve on another arena--helping others realize their dream. This generosity of spirit, flowing from her extensive charity work and motivational speaking, is her way of remaining on the victory stand.


1950, Won the first of 27 national diving titles; 1951, Gold medal at the Pan Am Games; 1952, Two gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland; 1955, Two gold medals at the Pan Am Games; 1956, Two gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia; 1956, Amateur Athletic Union's James E. Sullivan Memorial Trophy as amateur athlete of the year; 1956, Babe Zaharias Trophy; 1956, Helms Hall of Fame North American Athlete of the Year; 1956, Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year; 1956, Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year; 1956, United Press International's Woman Athlete of the Year; 1984, Inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame; 1985, Inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame; 1987, Inducted into the Orange County (California) Sports Hall of Fame; 1996, Inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.


* 1930 Born May 12 in Seal Beach, California
* 1948 Misses qualifying for the Olympics by less than a point
* 1949 Marries Glenn McCormick
* 1950 Wins the first of 27 national diving titles
* 1956 Gives birth to son Timmy
* 1956 Becomes the first and only woman diver to win four gold medals in two consecutive Olympic Games
* 1960 Gives birth to daughter Kelly
* 1974 Ends marriage to Glenn McCormick
* 1984 One of nine athletes selected to carry the Olympic flag in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Games
* 1984 Begins motivational speaking

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