Larry Andreasen said he just wanted to see if he could still do it--one more time.
So the 42-year-old Olympic medal winner hiked to the top of the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach on Thursday, waved to some startled onlookers and jumped 164 feet into the chilly waters of Long Beach Harbor.
Andreasen, of Los Alamitos, survived the jump and emerged from the water into the waiting arms of Long Beach police officers, who cited him for leaping from a bridge. At a Long Beach hospital, where he was taken for observation, Andreasen said Friday that he now looks forward to retirement.
"I've had it with diving," said Andreasen, whose hip and chest muscles remained sore from the impact of the splash.
Andreasen's interest in diving began in 1962, when at age 17 he began training for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. During those Games, he won a bronze medal in the springboard diving competition. About the same time, he also won two national amateur diving championships, as well as top rankings in a number of other national contests.
Andreasen said that after amateur competition, he turned professional and spent about four years performing diving stunts in a number of water shows, including those at San Diego's Sea World and the now-closed Marineland on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
He said he finally hung up his diving trunks when his father asked him to help out in the family's Los Alamitos machine shop. For the past 20 years, Andreasen has been doing just that--and reliving moments of glory.
Andreasen said that this being an Olympics year, he began wondering a few months ago whether he could still perform high dives. His previous record had been a dive from a 95-foot platform. By comparison, the men who dive off the cliffs at Acapulco fall 87 feet into the water.
Andreasen's goal was to sur
pass the world diving record of about 150 feet. He said he looked around for a ladder of that height but could not find one and did not have the money to build a platform that high.
While driving recently over the Gerald Desmond Bridge, which connects Terminal Island with Long Beach, Andreasen decided that that structure would be ideal for his jump. Then, after a 20-year hiatus from diving, he began whipping himself into shape by diving from the springboards at a local pool.
Andreasen never told his family what he intended to do. If he had, Andreasen's father, Leo, said he would have been worried, because the Gerald Desmond Bridge has been popular with suicidal people. Police say few people have survived the jump.
Squad Cars Gathered
Thursday afternoon after work, Andreasen drove to the foot of the bridge, donned a T-shirt, tennis shoes and swim trunks and walked to the top of the span. He said that as he took his position at the railing, he could see four police squad cars converging on the bank below.
Andreasen, who said that he is not afraid of heights but that "I respect heights immensely," waved and then jumped out to clear a 4-foot overhang that, he said, prevented him from attempting a dive headfirst. He landed feet first, his body perfectly straight. One officer who witnessed the jump told a Los Angeles radio station, "I'd give it a 9.6."
"I knew I'd make it, for sure," Andreasen said afterward. "But the impact was much heavier than I anticipated."
Andreasen said the impact temporarily paralyzed his arms, forcing him to turn over on his back and use his legs to paddle to a city Fire Department dock, where the police helped him out of the water and then gave him a ticket. He was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center.
Andreasen said he realizes his jump would not satisfy the requirements for a world record dive, since he didn't even dive. But he's satisfied, he said.
"That's it," he said. "I'm retired."