October 1, 2003 by

Wendy Wyland VanDerWoude


Categories: Sports

Wendy Wyland VanDerWoude, who won the bronze medal in platform diving at the 1984 Summer Olympics, died on Sept. 27. Cause of death was not released. She was 38.

VanDerWoude began her diving training when she was 14 years old. Three years later, she won the gold medal in the 10-meter platform diving at the 1982 Quayaquil World Championships. At 18, VanDerWoude took home a gold medal in platform and a silver medal in the 3-meter springboard diving events at the 1983 Pan American Games. She finished third in the platform diving competition at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Shoulder injuries forced her to take off most of the 1985 season, but when she returned the following year, VanDerWoulde won a bronze medal at the World Championships. She retired from competitive diving in the early 1990s, and has been coaching the Rochester Institute of Technology diving team for the past year.

In 2001, VanDerWoude was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. People Magazine also named her one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World.

27 Responses to Wendy Wyland VanDerWoude

  1. Rhonda James

    Wendy was my BEST friend in Texas where we both attended the University of North Texas, working for Housing–she an Assistant Hall Director and I a Resident Assistant.
    She had the best smile and the slickest “WINK” around. And on occassion would snort with laughter. She was full of fun and so full of life!
    If you REALLY knew her, you knew she was very competitive. We would play racquetball together but we didn’t play too many more times after I beat her a couple of times.
    She will certainly be missed!
    My sincerest condolences go out to the family!

  2. Alison L. Peleskey

    Dear Wyland family – I’m so sorry. I’ve never forgotten any of you – you were all very special to me. All my love, Alison (Jezerski)

  3. Laura Lippeatt

    I grew up in Mission Viejo with Wendy. I loved seeing her around school (Mission Viejo High School). We were always talking about the two Wendys. (Wendy Williams and Wendy Wyland). I feel privileged to have grown up in Mission Viejo during Wendy’s and the Nadadores’ golden era. I hope she is at rest now and at peace. God bless her loved ones she left behind.
    With fondest regards,
    Laura Lippeatt (Class of 1985, Mission Viejo High School).

  4. Rex Ricks

    I was doing a google search on the 84 olympics because it is the 20 year anniversary. I stumbled on this site.
    When I was 17, I worked as an usher at the USC Swim Stadium and saw Wendy in action. I thought she was a cutie. I even chatted with her briefly in the backstage area. I believe she may have given me an olympic pin. (I will have to look through my collection to see if I have a dive team pin.)
    I had no idea she passed away until now. But I would like to pay my condolences and say Rest In Peace and I wish the best for her family and friends.

  5. george roberts

    i was the athletic trainer assigned to us diving at the 1983 world university games. had an opportunity to get to know wendy a little and worked with her on her sore neck. as a matter of fact we were sitting together on the steps leading to the deck when a young russian diver was killed on the platform. i am sorry to here of her passing and wish my best to her family.

  6. Jen Indovina

    Wendy was my the diving coach for the swimming and diving team at Rochester Institute of Technology during my sophomore and the start of my junior year at RIT. I spent everyday with her and became very close with her two daughters. Wendy would often bring Abby and Carly to our meets. I would often get in trouble for playing with them instead of concentrating on my races and sets in practice. Wendy always said the girls loved the meets and we loved to have them there cheering us on, win or lose.
    Wendy brought an energy and feeling of acceptance to the team that was greatly appreciated and needed. She was our guidance councelor, our confidant, our cheerleader. I will always have a place in my heart for Wendy.
    To lose someone you get used to seeing everyday is quite difficult. On behalf of my team, I’d like to say that we love Wendy and think about her family often, we miss them dearly.
    It’s almost one year to the day that she passed away, and I couldn’t miss her more.

  7. Graham Topping

    A fellow British Diver and I were fortunate enough to be sent to Dick Kimballs Summer Camp in 1979/80, where we met both Wendy’s (Wyland and Williams)
    I have fond memories of that summer and of Wendy.
    I was shocked to read this news and would like to offer my sincerest condolences

  8. Alexis Newman

    I know that its been awile since Wendy’s death, but I still feel her precsence every day. She had such a love for both life and anyone that she came in contact with. I know that my personal memories of her have made her more than a coach or a mentor, but more like a mother too me. She way always there to lend a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. I know that she loved working with the diving team and loved the interactions that she had with all of us on a personal level. I now more than ever live my life in her memory and always do what I know that she would be proud of. I know that she is watching over everyone that she loved and I know that she is watching over me. We all love her dearly.
    *Wendy Van Der Woude* gone but never forgotton.

  9. Lisa DeLoach

    Wendy and I were pen pals for a short time in the early eighties. I’ve kept all of her notes and I still have a picture hanging on my wall of her doing one of those doubled over body and face contortion dives with the word “DETERMINATION” under it. I will cherish it always.

  10. M.P

    I was searching information about the olympics and stumbled across this website. The death of Wendy has been devasting, especially to her friends and family. I didn’t know Wendy herself, but i do know that she was a great diver, and a very kind, special person. Reading these memories and tributes makes me realise how important it is to not take your loved ones for granted, because you may never know what can happen to them. I deeply wish the best for everyone who had known Wendy.
    *Rest in peace Wendy*
    – Anon.

  11. John O'Brien

    I am a former diver and remember Wendy well. As kids we struck up a friendship although I would only see her at Diving meets.
    I remeber waiting in the pool until Wendy got in line and I would quickly get in line behind her so I could talk with her. Years later when she was on the USA Team, she competed against China at Cleveland State University. Our family had a dinner at our home for the US and Chinese athletes. Wendy also attended and she remembered our friendship as will I.
    Wendy you will always be in my thoughts.

  12. ShellEy Shay

    I was thinking about Wendy tonight and wondering if she had a Web page or if there was a way I could get back in contact with her when I found this page. I had no idea she passed away 3 years ago – on my father’s birthday no less… and my father just died a couple of months ago.
    I worked with Wendy at McConnell Hall – a dorm housing students finishing their last 2 yrs of high school and 1st 2 years of college simultaneously – at the University of North Texas. Wendy was the assistant Hall Director, I was a night desk clerk.
    I spent a number of hours hanging out with her in her apartment just shooting the bull. She was funny, considerate, tender-hearted and just a sweet person. I’m so sad to hear of her passing.
    I will be praying for her husband and children.

  13. susan wyland pebbles318@juno.com

    I was able to see Wendy on T.V. I always wondered if she was my husbands first cousin. I later found out she was. I would like to contact Rex Wyland. His brother was Virgil Wyland. Virgil had 3 children. They were seperated from there family at his passing. Wendy looked like my daughter as she was growing up.
    Susan Wyland
    P.S. If any of Wendy’s would like to respond. I would enjoy hearing from you. pebbles318@juno.com

  14. Darren McMillan

    I knew Wendy back in high school. I remember we got along very well and had alot of fun in class. It was a long time ago, but I always remembered her. She was a great person and friend. Darren….MVHS 1983.

  15. Jenn

    I never knew Wendy Wyland, but my coach has told me a lot of amazing things about her and have convinced me that I can do anything if I just work hard. I also heard that she was one of the underdogs going onto the olympic trials, but the amazing part to me is that she made it and placed evn though people didn’t think she would. This is what makes her a hero in my eyes.

  16. Douglas McTaggart

    Its been a while since I visited this site but that is not to say that Wendy doesn’t come into my thoughts often…
    I came back to a poem I knew in boyhood and thought I would pass it along here. Its by A.E. Housman.
    The time you won your town the race
    We chaired you through the market-place;
    Man and boy stood cheering by,
    And home we brought you shoulder-high.
    To-day, the road all runners come,
    Shoulder-high we bring you home,
    And set you at your threshold down,
    Townsman of a stiller town.
    Smart lad, to slip betimes away
    From fields where glory does not stay
    And early though the laurel grows
    It withers quicker than the rose.
    Eyes the shady night has shut
    Cannot see the record cut,
    And silence sounds no worse than cheers
    After earth has stopped the ears:
    Now you will not swell the rout
    Of lads that wore their honours out,
    Runners whom renown outran
    And the name died before the man.
    So set, before its echoes fade,
    The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
    And hold to the low lintel up
    The still-defended challenge-cup.
    And round that early-larelled head
    Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
    And find unwithered on its curls
    The garland briefer than a girl’s.

  17. Ryan Loy

    I met Wendy my sophomore year at RIT when she became diving coach. I had always been interested in diving, but never seriously pursued it. I was a 10+ year competitive swimmer until well…I think everyone who knew Wendy will probably know what happened when she found out that I could dive. It wasn’t a choice – I was quickly sucked in by her absolutely contagious excitement for diving and life alike.
    Wendy’s love for the sport (along with a few of my fellow divers) quickly fueled my newfound addiction to the pursuit of mastery of time and space.
    More than a coach, Wendy was an unbelievable role model in life. Though I only competed for her for little more than a season before her death, she became a best friend. I feel like she was sitting on my shoulder even after she passed as I achieved the diving goals in junior and senior year at RIT that we had talked about only a week before her death.
    I am exceptionally lucky to have been involved in her life — from the jokes at practice to sitting and watching video of her diving at World’s and the Olympics at her house with our team — to recognizing that her impact on my life was deeper than I imagined.
    Everyone I know who interacted with her at RIT will never forget the infusion of excitement for life you got just walking past her.
    Remembered always. I wish her family and friends the best.
    P.S. I still have my Hug Coupon – many of you may know what I’m talking about.

  18. pka

    I had the privilege of knowing Wendy for about tweny years. She came into diving just as I was leaving the sport. She was the toughest competitor I have ever known. This was never more evident than in the 1988 Olympic Trials. In the Semi-Finals she missed a dive very badly and went into the finals significantly behind the leaders. She came back to win the finals on points but because of the deficit carried into the finals, she ended up third and the top two divers went on to the Olympics. She had an amazing smile, loved kids and had a wild sense of humor. She was a close friend and an amazing person. She is missed. My prays continue to go out to her husband and two girls.

  19. Kevin Gray

    Wendy and I were great friends for a year at USC. I met her after she won her bronze at the Olympics. I lost contact with her after USC but I still have a, 8×10 photograph of her that she gave me when we were hanging out in her dorm. I have thought about her many times since. I thought about her everytime I drove through Mission Viejo on my way to San Diego. I though about her whenever I saw that picture. However, I never tried to reach out to her until today.
    I drove to San Diago yesterday to watch the US Open. On my way through Mission Viejo I decided that I would finally try to contact Wendy. So I Googled her and was devastated to find this page. I am truly crushed to learn that she has passed.
    She was the most beautiful and kind person that I had ever met. She was a world class athlete and I was an average student at USC. Yet we built a friendship over the course of a semester that I cherish to this day.
    I never met Wendy’s family but I want to send my heartfelt condolences. I never imagined that I would not get the opportunity to speak with her again. Goodbye Wendy.

  20. Jon in Indiana

    I met Wendy briefly only once when the US team was competing in my hometown of Noblesville Indiana shortly after winning the world championships. Wendy was here, but did not compete due to an injury. I met her briefly and she was so nice and so beautiful. I just googled her to see what ever became of her. I was stunned to see this memorial site. Sorry to hear that she is gone. She seemed so sweet.

  21. Shawn

    I “fell” for Wendy after watching her compete in the ’84 Olympics. She wasn’t just pretty and talented, but in her bio clip she came off as incredibly sweet too.
    As an artist I decided to draw her in a pike position coming off the board. I matted it and sent it to her. To my surprise she sent me a letter a couple of weeks later in which she filled me in on her life and training. And every sentiment in it was a sweet as I imagined her to be. I was never so happy to receive a letter. I still have it.
    I just Googled Wendy while watching the Olympics and am so sad to learn of her passing. And to think it was five years ago…
    I hope her family has found peace in the passing years.

  22. Sherry Rinehart-Whitt

    I was bragging to my son as we watched the 2008 divers about how I used to do gymnastics with an olympic diver. I was shocked to see this news from some time ago. I was in Gayle’s class and spent many nights in awe watching Wendy on the trampoline at Pete Bush gymnastics in Penfield. My heartfelt condolences to the family.

  23. Mark Braiman

    The statement on this blog that Wendy “began her diving training when she was 14 years old” does a disservice to her first diving coach, Betty Perkins. My younger brother and sister dove with Wendy on the Perkins diving team in Penfield NY. I can remember, when I was in my last year of high school in 1973, watching a 10-year-old Wendy do very challenging dives off the 1-meter and 3-meter boards, as well as the 5-meter (yes, 5-meter) tower at the Perkins Swim Club, whenever I arrived early to pick up my younger brother and sister from practice. She was unbelievably gutsy for a 10-year-old, chomping at the bit to try multiple-flip dives that were scary even to watch.
    Her father Vernon Wyland was the superintendent of the Penfield High School district. His signature is on my high school diploma from 1973, as well as on all of my 7 siblings’ diplomas.

  24. Dipen

    Watching the 2012 Olympics, I remembered that one of my Assistant Hall Directors at the University of North Texas was an Olympic Bronze Medalist in diving. I decided to look her up and figured that she was likely coaching somewhere. It is terrible to see that she has passed. Condolences to her family and friends. I was a student at TAMS while Wendy served as Assistant Hall Director. Wendy was easy to talk to, and she always interest in seeing her students succeed. I’m surprised and sad to learn that she has passed. She will be missed.

  25. Abi

    Wendy Wyland is my mother. She was oh so beautiful, funny, sweet, generous…etc. I miss my mother everyday. I never grew up like a normal kid…i didnt have a mom to go shopping with or to yell mommy when i needed something or to tuck me in at night. I did have my sister and dad who always tried to replace her to make me feel better but it never worked. i am 12 yrs old now in 7th grade, my mother inspires me to do anything and everything because she achieved such great things at a young age. i am on an elite soccer team and am hoping to make it to the big leagues. My mother is the only person who really makes me think i can do it. my grandmother, my mothers mom, told me the other day that when i was little i was told i was most likely to have depression. I am happy to say i am trying to live a normal life but i did prove the doctors wrong because i am depression free. Mommy i would like to tell u that i go through your boxes of stuff all the time and whenever i do i find stuff out i never knew before. Alot of people knew you since you were such a sweetheart. i don’t have much of a memory of you but i have ideas and thats all i need. I go and visit betty perkins all the time she is still getting down on the floor to play marbles with me. i love you mommy. May i find my way back to you when its my time. r.i.p – Abi VanDerwoude

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