Sport: U.S. Olympic Diving
Born: September 17, 1947
Town: Orange, New Jersey
Lesley Leigh Bush was born September 17, 1947, in Orange. Lesley and her brother, David, loved the water and excelled in all manner of aquatic sports. They began competing when Lesley was 9. David would go on to compete for the U.S. at the 1972 Olympics. Both would make their marks as divers.
Growing up in Princeton, Lesley developed into one of the top athletes in her sport through AAU competition and training, primarily at a facility in Mountain Lakes, about an hour north. Lesley attended Princeton High, which did not have a swimming or diving team. In the days before Internet news and social media, she walked the hallways and attended classes with almost complete anonymity—even after making the 1964 Olympic team at age 16. Many were astounded that she made it; a year earlier she was not even ranked in the Top 20 nationally.
At the Olympics in Tokyo, Lesley surprised everyone again by taking an early lead in the platform diving competition. The defending gold medalist, Ingred Kramer Engel, could not close the gap and Lesley captured a gold medal. When her parents heard the news back in New Jersey, they refused to believe it until Lesley told them by phone. When she returned to Princeton, now everyone knew who she was. The kids were let out of school and a victory parade was held along Nassau Street.
There would be no parade after the 1968 Olympics. Lesley had a poor first dive and never recovered. However, in the intervening years, she had continued to excel. Lesley was victorious in several indoor and outdoor meets, and won national titles in platform in 1965, ’67 and ’68, in springboard in 1967 and ’68. Lesley also won a gold medal at the Pan-Am Games in 1967.
After her athletic career concluded, Lesley became a high-school biology teacher in West Windsor. She married Charlie Hickox, a pupil of legendary swimming coach Doc Counsilman. Hickox swam to fame at the 1968 Olympics, winning three gold medals and one silver, but they were later divorced. Lesley moved to Florida and continued to teach. She was living in the Florida Keys when she married David Makepeace, a fellow educator. She moved back to Princeton after retiring from teaching, but still interacts with area students on a part-time basis.
Lesely was enshrined in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1986.