High diving makes its debut at the European Championships here in Rome, nine years after it was first included in the programme of the FINA World Championships in Barcelona 2013.
The discipline had one FINA meet annually ever since, the World Champs in odd years and a FINA World Cup in even years, but since the outburst of the Covid pandemic the divers had one appearance at the FINA stage so far: a FINA World Championships Qualifier was held last December in the frame of the Aquatic Festival in Abu Dhabi, on the occasion of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m).
However, as the originally scheduled edition in Fukuoka (JPN) was further postponed at the beginning of the year, the qualified high divers need to wait to compete at the FINA World Championships - Budapest jumped in to organise a 2022 edition, but due to the tight timeframe, no high diving facility was constructed this time.
Reaching new heights in Roma 🇮🇹— LEN - European Aquatics (@LENaquatics) August 19, 2022
High Diving features for the first time at the European Aquatics Championships. LEN TV got up close and personal to understand the thrill of the high dive. #LENRoma2022 pic.twitter.com/3f69VBdWXt
Still, the high divers had their own professional series, which offers a fine view on their actual shape, and this is the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. The annual competition features several legs – this season they have eight stops around the world –, though there is one basic principle there: any event can take place solely in natural waters, the series reject the usage of temporary pools.
Still, the divers are keen to compete at other major events held in any kind of ‘landing area’ – indeed many of them are also part of various entertainment shows which are usually staged in temporary facilities –, so just like at the 2017 and the 2019 FINA World Championships, the 2022 Europeans are also hosted in a temporary pool, in close proximity to the swimming and artistic swimming venues.
Competition modus, prize money
Since high diving is an extremely demanding – and with all honestly: a dangerous – sport, competitors are required to perform one or two dives per day (unlike in diving, where the individual events require 12 dives from the men and 10 from the women on the same day with the prelims in the morning and the finals in the evening).
Also, because of the extreme demands, the prize money policy has always been different compared to the other disciplines where usually the top three are rewarded – here all the entrants receive prize money.
Men’s event: one more Popovici to shine, but Hunt is also in the hunt
Though the brightest star of the swimming meet David Popovici of Romania has left Rome to head to Lima (PER), the site of the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, there is another great athlete under the same name who is destined to make history in the Foro Italico.
Constantin Popovici – no family relation, they have identical last names – is one of the top favourites to win the historical first European title here in Rome. He is currently ranked 5th in the series, though had already bagged one win over the first four legs (in the third one, in Copenhagen) and he also has some fond memories from the Foro Italico as he made the finals of the 10m platform back at the 2009 FINA World Championships.
Insights into the High Diving competition
Though fellow Romanian Catalin Preda has perhaps even better chances: he won in Paris, was runner-up in Copenhagen and third in Oslo and he is leading the overall at the halfway mark.
Of course, the biggest threat to the two Romanians is Gary Hunt, who competes now for France though won his 2015 and 2019 world titles as a Brit. He is ranked second and he is fresh from winning the fourth leg in Oslo. A ‘British Brit’ Adian Heslop was third and is currently ranked third while Italy’s biggest hope Alessandro de Rose – world bronze medallist in 2017 – came up with his best dives also in Norway to finish second in that leg.
Women’s event: can the Germans make 1-2?
As a bit of contrast, while the European high divers dominate the men’s series – they are sitting in the top 7 positions in the overall –, there is only one lady from the Old Continent who is currently in the top 10 and she cannot compete in Rome as she represents Belarus (Yana Nestsiarava, two-time world bronze medallist, took part in the series as independent athlete).
This is also mirrored by the number of entries – while in the men’s rounds we can watch 19 divers, the women’s event is contested by eight divers. Among them, Ukraine’s Anna Vyshyvanova and the two Germans Anna Bader – bronze medallist at the inaugural high diving event at the FINA World Champs in Barcelona 2013 –and Iris Schmidbauer are the highest ranked Europeans (11th through the 13th positions in the overall). There is a fine chance for a German 1-2, though four rounds can offer many surprises in this demanding sport.
News provided by the LEN Media Team.