ABU DHABI (UAE) - Seven of the top eight from the Gwangju World Championships 2019 are competing, but if today’s results are any indication, there may very well be new faces on the podium.  After the first two rounds on Sunday, which included a required dive with a maximum of 2.8 degree of difficulty and one optional dive without limit, Romanian Constantin Popovici leads with 210.60 points. Popovici received 9’s across the board in round 1. He then stunned the audience in the second round by nailing the most difficult dive of the day, an arm stand back 3-1/2 somersaults 3 twists pike with a 6.0 degree of difficulty.

“This event is a test for me for the new things I am doing,” Popovici said. “After the last Red Bull event, I decided I needed to step up my game. I went to Italy and Canada to train with the Canadian team. It was a lot of hard work, but it is paying off. It felt good and I am happy.”

Heading into tomorrow in second place is a debutante to the FINA High Diving events, Great Britain’s Aidan Heslop. Heslop is only 19 years old and because of his age has previously been unable to participate in FINA events. Scoring all 9’s on his required dive, Heslop followed this up with 8.5’s on his optional, a back 3 somersaults 4 twists free with a 5.2 degree of difficulty. Heslop trails Popovici by only 2.40 points heading into tomorrow’s final two dives.

Romanian Catalin-Petru Preda led after the first round as he received three 10’s and all 9.5’s. His optional dive, an arm stand back 3-1/2 somersaults 2 twists pike with the same degree of difficulty as Heslop, did not score enough to remain in the lead.

Tomorrow’s competition will sure to be exciting as the athletes perform one intermediate dive with a maximum degree of difficulty of 3.6 and one more optional dive without a limit. With the top 12 athletes only separated by 50 points – a group that includes one of the most decorated High Diving athletes of all-time in Gary Hunt (FRA) and the reigning world champion Steve Lo Bue (USA), and the world championship runner-up in Jonathan Paredes (MEX), those standing on the podium will have to bring their best.