Present in Tokyo for the FINA Diving World Cup, he competed today in the preliminaries of the men’s 10m platform, where he placed 26th, theoretically with very few chances to qualify for the Games. His major upset during the competition was his second combination, an inward 3 ½ somersaults (tuck), for which he only collected 38.40 points from the judges. “Yes, I badly missed that dive and then I could not fully concentrate for the remaining ones. Maybe the competition was too long, maybe there was some tiredness…”, admits the 32-year-old Romanian ace.

His first appearance at high level occurred at the 2007 FINA World Championships in Melbourne (AUS). The following year, he took part at his only Olympics so far, in Beijing, where he ranked 23rd in the 10m. Then came the 2009 Worlds in Rome (8th) and then, from 2010, a long break until we saw Popovici appearing again in the… high diving world. And he started quite well, with a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup and a bronze in the same event in 2019. “Lately, I try to combine the two, and this year the focus was on this one… It’s tough… Looking at the scoreboard, my chances to qualify are really slim…”

Disappointed, the Romanian star recalls the difficult situation with the COVID, but admits that “everyone faced the same challenge. It was hard. For the last three months, I could train properly, but the four months before that were really complicated, as I had to prepare without having a pool! We need to adapt, and we can see here that only the strongest are able to survive!” he admits.

However, Popovici highlights the venue in Tokyo, as being a superb facility for Aquatics. “It’s the best pool I’ve seen in my life – and the biggest! Too bad I may not come back here again”, he says with a note of sadness in his voice.

Having easily assimilated the stringent conditions imposed to the participants in this World Cup, the Romanian ace is philosophical: “For me, this is perfectly OK. At home, we operate pretty much under the same requirements, so it’s easy to adapt. I am also vaccinated, so it helps. But, I feel pretty sure here – all the competitions should be like this. It’s unimaginable otherwise, under these complicated circumstances”.