In his native Italy, they call Klaus Dibiasi l'Angelo Biondo, the Blond Angel, which is apt because of his seemingly winged descents off the 10-meter diving tower and his unfailingly gentle nature. Although his opponents are not quite so effusive, they, too, hold the 28-year-old Dibiasi in high regard. After he outpointed the U.S.' young Greg Louganis and six other rivals in last week's tower competition, few of the losers spent much time grieving. "I did my best—I'm satisfied," the 16-year-old Louganis said with a shrug, clutching his silver medal. Cynthia Potter McIngvale, who won a bronze medal for the U.S. in women's springboard, said, "Getting beat by Klaus is no disgrace. He's a legend."
For Dibiasi, the triumph crowned an extraordinary Olympic career spanning 12 years. He won in Montreal despite a sore left Achilles tendon that made him consider withdrawing just 48 hours before the tower finals. But when the time arrived to start plunging off the platform, the equivalent of diving from a four-story building, there was Dibiasi snapping off his 10 dives with all the familiar consistency and control.
As always, Dibiasi's victory was shared by his father and coach, Carlo, a baldish retired bank clerk known to divers of all countries as Poppa. A native of Bolzano, a city of 100,000 nestled in the Dolomites, the elder Dibiasi dived for the Italian team at the 1936 Olympics. In World War II he was a corporal in the German anti-tank corps, was captured by the British in North Africa and transported as a prisoner of war to Ft. Leonard Wood (Mo.).
After the war the Dibiasis lived in Austria, where Klaus was born, but the family soon returned to Bolzano. Painfully withdrawn, 17-year-old Klaus was nevertheless enough of a prodigy at the '64 Games to lead the tower field after the preliminaries. In the finals he blew a dive and was edged by American Bob Webster. Maturing, he got gold medals at Mexico City and Munich and won the last two world championships. For all that, Dibiasi was apprehensive in Montreal, confiding that the pressure had never been so great, especially from his countrymen.
August 8, 1976
Pressure was also being applied by Louganis, who is a slightly more acrobatic, shoot-the-works tower challenger typical of the newer breed of divers. Swarthy and catlike, Louganis is of Samoan extraction. He was adopted by Peter and Frances Louganis of El Cajon, Calif. when he was eight months old, and he smiled shyly at his parents as he mounted the tower. He then performed a sensational series of dives that enabled him to outscore Dibiasi narrowly in the preliminaries. In the finals the Italian had moved into the lead by his fifth dive, but Louganis was saving his three bread-and-butter dives for the end, and after the first of these, a nicely executed inward 2½, Louganis closed the gap to only 6.66 points. Then, in a scene reminiscent of Dibiasi's own experience as an Olympic rookie, Louganis scored a disappointing 50.46 on his forward 3½, a dive that had earned him a whopping 76.56 in the preliminaries.
That sealed it for Dibiasi, who went on to win 600.51 to 576.99, with the U.S.S.R.'s 16-year-old Vladimir Aleynik taking the bronze with 548.61.
Afterward Louganis went off to a U.S. team banquet where everybody agreed that he would be the man to beat in 1980. Among those sharing the opinion was Dibiasi, who said he will retire after the European Cup later this month in Edinburgh. "I like Greg very much," said l'Angelo Biondo, gracious to the end. "He is very modest and very simpatico. I see in him myself when I was 16."