One Armed Diver Who Struck Gold: The Story of Maxine "Micki" King


By Richard Retyi, U-M Athletic Media Relations

Maxine "Micki" King never met a challenge she couldn't match or an obstacle she could not overcome, and competing in the three meter dive at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics with a broken arm was no exception. King, a 1966 U-M graduate, had to train on her own with U-M men's diving coach Dick Kimball because there were no opportunities for female divers at Michigan. Nevertheless, she trained hard and earned a spot on the U.S. Team for the 1968 Olympics. After completing eight of her 10 dives in the three-meter event, King stood in first place, but tragedy struck on dive number nine. On a reverse one-and-a-half layout, she struck the board, fracturing her left forearm. Unable to lift her arm over her head, King completed her 10th dive but fell to fourth place, narrowly missing a medal.

"The irony was that I could have done my cleanup dive with a broken leg," King was quoted as saying, "but I didn't know I had to do it with a broken arm. I didn't think it was going to hurt, and when it did, it shook me up."

Undeterred, King staged a comeback and found herself on the Olympic team once more for the 1972 Munich Games. Going into the final round in the three-meter event, King held third place. With her medal hopes uncertain, she wowed the judges in her final attempt -- the same dive that cost her gold in the Mexico City games -- and moved into first place to take the gold medal. She also competed in the platform dive, taking fifth place.

King went on to succeed in a number of areas. She had a 26-year career in the U.S. Air Force, coaching the Air Force men's diving team and becoming the first and only woman to coach a male athlete to an individual NCAA Championship title. In 1992, she retired as a Colonel from the Air Force after a distinguished career. King was brought on as the University of Kentucky's Athletic Director in 1992, where she served for 14 years while also becoming the first woman to command Kentucky's ROTC regiment.

She remained involved in the Olympics and stayed in the spotlight as well, providing color commentary for ABC's coverage of the 1976 Olympic Games while appearing on a number of television shows, including Battle of the Sexes and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. King maintained her U.S. Olympic ties by serving as the team leader for the U.S. diving team at the 1988 and 1996 Games. She also served as president of U.S. Diving from 1990-94, acting in that capacity for the 1992 Atlanta Games.

Perhaps King's greatest legacy was co-founding the Women's Sports Foundation with Billie Jean King, swimmer Donna de Varona, and sprinter Wyomia Tyus in 1974. The Women's Sports Foundation helped promote initiatives such as Title IX while lobbying for funding of women's sports.

In 2005, King was elected to a four-year term as Vice President of the U.S. Olympians Association, which represents all former U.S. Olympians.

She is a member of numerous halls of fame, including the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, International Swimming Hall of Fame, International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, U-M Athletic Hall of Honor and Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.