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Celebrities aim to make a ‘Splash’ in diving contest

Several personalities are taking a major plunge, to their own surprise as well as others’.

In January, Fox tried a celebrity diving special that – pardon the phrase – tanked, but ABC is forging ahead with a weekly variation. Premiering at 8 tonight, “Splash” is to diving what “Dancing With the Stars” has been to another pursuit, as several famous faces attempt challenging twists and turns after leaping off boards toward the water below.

The show’s host – multiple Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis – and judges certainly know the sport, giving them a firm basis to gauge the efforts of competitors who include basketball icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, comic Louie Anderson, actor Drake Bell (“Drake & Josh”), “Chelsea Lately” sidekick Chuy Bravo and extreme skier Rory Bushfield.

Also competing are actresses Nicole Eggert (“Baywatch”) and Keshia Knight Pulliam (“The Cosby Show”), Detroit Lions defenseman Ndamukong Suh, reality show star Kendra Wilkinson, and Miss Alabama USA 2012 Katherine Webb, who became a household name when sportscaster Brent Musberger voiced his appreciation of her while she watched her University of Alabama quarterback boyfriend, A.J. McCarron, play recently.

The famously plus-sized Anderson considers “Splash” his incentive to start a new health regimen. He explains, “When I watched the ad for the version of this show that was done in the Netherlands, something clicked inside me and said, ‘Hey, I can do that.’ They had a big gentleman on that show, and I thought, ‘If he could do it, maybe I can do it.’

“I’ve been asking the universe to send me some message to get me healthier,” Anderson adds. “When you have a lifelong struggle with eating, you need something to arrest it. I’m happy to say I’ve already lost some weight, and I’m also getting stronger [while training for ‘Splash’], and that’s the really amazing thing. You need to be strong to make these dives.”

For Webb, “Splash” is one of many opportunities that have come her way lately – also including her stint last month as a Super Bowl XLVII correspondent for the syndicated “Inside Edition” – especially after the Musberger matter.

“I’ve already bypassed a lot of the others in my willingness to try new things,” she says of her “Splash” effort so far. “I did a back flip off the diving board my third time in the pool, and I think that shows I’m a risk taker. A lot of people perceive me as just a pretty face, and that’s fine … but once you get to know me, you know that I grew up a tomboy and that I’m not afraid to get dirty. I’m a free spirit, I guess you could say.”

However she ultimately fares on “Splash,” Webb claims she has no fear for her safety. “We have amazing coaches who are Olympic trainers and retired Olympians,” she reports, “and they are adamant about teaching us the correct form and correct way to do certain things. There’s always a risk of getting hurt, and this is the first time for a series like this, so we’ll see what injuries come out of it. Hopefully, none.”

Anderson ran into some trouble early in his “Splash” practicing, helped out of the pool by Louganis and Suh when he became too tired to climb out on his own, but he feels confident enough to size up his rivals in the contest easily. “I feel bad for them,” he states, “because I’m gonna win it.”