Cathy Capelle, Wittenberg class of 1976, is one of those people who dives right into life. And literally, diving is what she does best.
A member of the swimming and diving team during her time at Wittenberg, Capelle took second place at the 1976 state meet in the one-meter springboard diving. She even served as the coach of the men’s and women’s dive team during that same year.
“I used to count the hours, minutes, and seconds until the pool opened in the summer,” said Capelle, who earned a degree in business and was certified to teach business in high school. During her time at Wittenberg, she also served as president of the Tau Pi Phi and Marketing clubs, and was the recipient of the Iddings Scholarship.
“I didn’t start diving until I was 11 in 1965, and I won the city three years in a row,” she said. “I swam as a child starting at the age of eight at Clifton Meadows in Cincinnati and competed in four events: diving, butterfly in the medley relay, the 50-meter fly, and I anchored the freestyle relay.”
Years later, she took to the boards once again through a Masters Diving program as part of USA Diving (USAD). She learned about the program in 1999 through the Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, Ohio, while working as a purchasing manager at Cintas.
“The USAD is the organization that sends our Americans to the Olympics,” said Capelle, who has been widowed twice. (Her husband, Gary, passed away in 1992 and her husband, John, in 2013). “I’ve been competing in the USAD’s nationals since August 2000. I enjoy diving because it’s excellent exercise. Every dive is a challenge, and there’s always room for improvement, but most importantly, it’s FUN. Of course, it’s always grand to win. I thoroughly enjoy performing clown dives, coaching, and teaching anyone at any age.”
Capelle is not too shabby at diving either, earning 70 medals since 2000 including 24 gold and five from world competitions. In 2005 and 2006, she was the national chairman and secretary for USAD’s Masters division and responsible for two nationals per year. In 2006, she was additionally responsible for the Federation of International Nations (FINA) World Masters Championships held at Stanford University in California. FINA is the governing body over all of the Olympic Committees worldwide for the five aquatic sports that compete in the Olympics: swimming, diving, artistic swimming, water polo, and open-water swimming.
At the age of 65, Capelle does more exercise than most 21-year-olds. She usually dives four days a week and does approximately 30 dives in 35 minutes as she still has to do seven dives during a competition in her 65-69 age group. She also works out one-to-two days a week on all of the weight machines and does 30 minutes on the treadmill.
“I used to swim for exercise as an adult. In 2002, at my first World Masters Games in Melbourne, Australia, I swam the 50-meter breast stroke and placed 12th, and the 50-meter freestyle and placed 18th in my age group, both without training a single lap,” said Capelle, who brought home three gold medals for the one-meter and three-meter springboard, and the platform and a silver for synchronized diving during that meet. There were 105 women in her age group.
“Some of my favorite dives are a 103A, which is a front one-and-a-half somersault in the straight position off the three-meter and a 301A, which is a reverse dive straight,” said Capelle, who coined the phrase “Let’s Dive!” in 2004. The phrase is now used after the national anthem is sung at their nationals and worldwide, especially in correspondence. “I feel like a bird flying. When I ‘rip’ a dive, I get goose bumps on my thighs, which didn’t happen as a child. Everyone loves my incredible belly smacker and 30’ can opener splash.”
While diving and swimming are important parts of her life, Capelle knew she wanted a business career before even attending Wittenberg. After graduating summa cum laude with an MBA in 1982 from the University of Dayton, while working full-time for Mead for three and a half years, she advanced her career to executive positions at Formica, Cincinnati Bell Telephone, and Cintas. She is a Lifetime Certified Purchasing Manager, which was conferred by the National Association of Purchasing Management.
“Wittenberg gave me an excellent foundation for the corporate world,” Capelle said. “It was challenging academically, rewarding, and paid off exceptionally well. In 2000, at age 46, and 20 years early, I retired from the corporate world. Now every day is Saturday, and I do whatever I want whenever I want.”
She is currently training for the USAD nationals in July in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the 2021 FINA Worlds in Fukuoka, Japan, where she is hoping to capture five gold medals. Her current goals are to earn a score of 10 and break a world record.
Capelle was nominated in August 2019 as a finalist in the Dayton 60 Strong Calendar contest. She then found out that she made the calendar. She is Miss August and an ambassador representing what it takes to be inspiring in mind, body, and spirit.
In 1984, at the age of 30, she dabbled in powerlifting and captured a third-place finish in the Women’s Nationals after training for just six months. Her best lift was a 405-pound deadlift prompting Iron Man Magazine to include her in an international publication in March 1985.
Capelle also volunteers at the Dayton Art Institute, USA Diving, Carillon Historical Park, Wittenberg’s Dayton Chapter Alumni, Dayton Liederkranz, Riverscape, and several others organizations on a regular basis.
Below photos were courtesy of Dayton 60 Strong.