Mexico's Paola Espinosa dries off with her shammy as she prepares for a dive during the women's 10-meter platform competition at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

An Olympic diver is never far from his or her "shammy."

What's the deal with those tiny towels?

The chamois _ a 13-by-17-inch water absorbing towel _ is an essential piece of equipment in a sport that doesn't require much more than a suit, a pool and a diving board. That is especially true at the Rio Olympics, where diving is being held outdoors for the first time since 1992.

Resembling a rag one might use to wipe down their car, the shammy allows a diver to quickly dry off _ and stay warm _ after coming out of the water. Even more important, it ensures he or she is totally dry before hurling themselves into the water, reducing the chance of potential slip-ups amidst all those twists, spins and cotortions.

"When you're grabbing your legs in the air in a tuck position, you don't want to slip, " Australian diver Melissa Wu said. "It's sort of part safety."

The shammy is also the source of endless fascination every four years.

A diver usually takes the shammy right out to the board or platform, then tosses it down to the deck at the last possible second. That leads to some amusing rituals.

Some divers appears intent of landing their shammy on a very specific part of the deck. Others are not so particular.

"We just turn it and make a knot in it and throw it down," said Canadian diver Meaghan Benfeito. "I'm not really picky where it goes as long as it gets to the bottom and I can grab it when I come out of the water."
 

Cao Yuan of China carries his shammy during the finals of the men's 3-meter spingboard (Alexander Vilf/Sputnik via AP)
 
Benfeito's shammy is always red, the color of Canada's flag. American diver Jessica Parratto goes with a tie-dyed towel. Another American, Katrina Young, always carries an extra one.
 
"Just in case," she said. "A lot of times I misplace it."
 
And no diver can do without their shammy.