Yas Bay was the place to be this afternoon in Abu Dhabi, with spectators on their feet for the last round as they witnessed a thrilling competition for top honours in the men’s FINA High Diving Qualifier 2021.
ABU DHABI (UAE) – Gasps of fear, screams of joy and all-around applause for the magnificent performances of the athletes competing. Each athlete was cheered on, and the spectacular dives received well-deserved appreciation.
Nineteen-year-old Aidan Heslop took the lead after the first round on day two, moving him into the day’s last diving position. His performance would determine the podium and the statement he made competing in an event of this magnitude was loud and clear: Heslop has arrived on the High Diving scene.
Heslop began dreaming about being a high diver since age twelve, and he's been preparing and waiting to be old enough to be allowed to compete at a FINA event. Heslop’s final dive had an insane 6.2 degree of difficulty, yet the young athlete remained composed and received sevens from the judges – just enough to claim the gold medal with 436.90 points.
Unbelievable, I don’t know what is going on,” Heslop said once returning to terra firma. “I thought that I messed up a little bit on the last dive and that it would drop me down, but magically I am in first. I can’t believe it. I am on top of the world right now.
The battle for the silver and bronze medals was a fierce one between the Romanians Catalin-Petru Pedra and Constantin Popovici, and the Russian Swimming Federation's Artem Silchenko. Many dives were spectacular in scoring nines; other dives came with extreme degrees of difficulty. Silchenko’s intermediate dive – the one which brought him to the top of the ranking in round three – was spectacular.
His performance of a back 2 Somersaults 11/2 Twists in the free position received all 10’s.
Still, it was not enough for Silchenko as his final dive did not score high enough to reach the podium.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s leader Popovici lost some ground in the required intermediate dive where all athletes perform a high dive with a 3.6 degree of difficulty. Meanwhile, his fellow countryman Catalin-Petru Pedra received several 9’s to move ahead of Popovici into third place, just behind Silchenko.
As is so often the case in high-stakes High Diving, it would come down to the final round dives where the differences in the degree of difficulty and execution of those dives make all the difference. Pedra completed a Back Pike 4 Somersaults 2 Twists with a 5.1 degree of difficulty. Like yesterday, Popovici went big in performing a Back Pike 4 Somersaults 3 Twists with a 5.8 degree of difficulty. For his efforts, Popovici received a standing ovation and the highest individual score of the event, 156.60 points. But it proved not to be enough to move in front of Pedra and Heslop.
“The first dive today was just not what it should have been. I have been focusing on the hard dives, and I thought I could just do it. It was not great. The second dive, I have been working very hard on and I focused, and it went really well.”
This High Diving event served as the final qualifier for the FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan next May.
Twenty-four males will be competing in Fukuoka, including the top eight from the FINA World Championships 2019 in Gwangju (KOR), which were Gary Hunt (FRA), Steve Lo Bue (USA), Jonathan Paredes (MEX), Michal Navratil (CZE), Alessandro De Rose (ITA), Andy Jones (USA), Miguel Garcia (COL), Viacheslav Kolesnikov (UKR)
This group will be joined by the top fourteen males from the men’s FINA High Diving Qualifier 2021 and two as-yet-undetermined wild card entries. Based on today’s final results Aidan Heslop (GBR), Catalin-Petru Pedra (ROU) Constantin Popovici (ROU), Artem Silchenko (RUS), Oleksly Prygorov (UKR), David Colturi (USA), Nikita Fedotov (RUS), Blake Aldridge (GBR), Kris Kolanus (POL), Sergio Guzman (MEX), Owen Weymouth (GBR), Carlos Gimeno (ESP), Manuel Halbisch (GER) and Alberto Devora Ramos (ESP) booked their place in the Fukuoka field. The upcoming FINA World Championships will take place from 13-29 May 2022.