VIOLA KRAHN HOPS ON THE DIVING board, surveys the water 10 feet below and reminds herself that technique is everything. “I have to remember to keep my buns up,” she says. Her repertoire of dives—forward, forward twist, back, and back with half twist—has a certain flair. So does Krahn. At age 90, she’s the oldest competitive diver in the U.S. For the past 14 years, at regional and national masters’ competitions around the U.S., she has never lost in her age group—in fact, these days she is the only entrant in her age group.
“I think it’s fun to try to win,” says Krahn, who last lost when she was 76—after a 54-year hiatus. “I wasn’t happy,” she says. “Afterward I practiced more.”
Krahn (then Viola Hartmann) took up diving in Long Beach, Calif., in 1914 when she was 12. “I instinctively knew I should keep my legs together and point my toes,” she says. She was Junior National Champion from 1922 through 1924 and then quit to marry her coach, Fred Cady. “I went into the housekeeping business. That’s what women did then,” she says. She does have one regret: not trying out for the 1924 Olympics. “I was so involved in my love affair, and Fred didn’t want me to go away,” says Krahn, who lives in Laguna Beach. “I think I would have had a chance.”
In the years afterward, she took up polo (both on ponies and in the water) and golf. “I didn’t have time to miss diving,” she says. By the end of the 1970s, though, she was ready to try again. Cady had died in 1960; she had no children, and her second husband, former telephone company executive Fred Krahn (who died in 1986), encouraged her to return to competition. She did, and she’s never regretted it. “I’ll tell you,” she says, “when you’re 90, you’ll never have it better. It’s worth living for.”