After many months of uncertainty, difficulties to train, challenges to travel and a global sanitary situation that is far from being stable, the Olympic Games were never so close for the Aquatics family. This week, from May 1-6, the world best divers will gather in Tokyo for the Diving World Cup, a qualification and test event for the Games, to be held in the Tokyo Aquatics Centre of the Japanese capital.
The national delegations arrived already in Tokyo and are getting acquainted with the superb facility until the end of the week. Then, 225 athletes from 46 member federations will try their best to finally get their “ticket” for the Olympic rendezvous, scheduled from July 23-August 8, 2021.
And this World Cup is the most important milestone in this procedure with individual events – 3m springboard and 10m platform, for both men and women – qualifying up to 18 places each, while four spots will be determined in synchronised events.
The Diving World Cup will therefore complete the qualification path in this discipline, which had two previous highlights – the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju (KOR) and since then the continental selections. Last detail: in diving, the qualification is not nominal, meaning that athletes are in fact gaining a spot for their National Olympic Committee/National Federation.
Among the nations entered for the World Cup, some have already secured places in many of the events – China is the most flagrant case, with all spots ensured in both men and women -, but their representatives still made the trip to Tokyo to familiarise themselves with the facility at the Games’ time.
MEN'S 3M SPRING
Starting with the men, the 3m springboard will have in talented Philippe Gagné the main asset from Canada to secure a place in the event, while Alexander Lube and Martin Wolfram will try to provide a second qualified diver for Germany.
Lorenzo Marsaglia and Giovanni Tocci will be the Italian cards for a place in the Games, Yona Knight-Wisdom from Jamaica will try to repeat his 2016 feat (qualification for the Rio Olympics after being second in the World Cup – then only 14th at the Games’ time), Mexico will fight for a second qualifier (veteran Jahir Ocampo – bronze in the synchro event at the 2013 Worlds - has good chances to shine), Russian and US representatives will have less stressing tasks as their respective countries already got their two places.
At present and before this World Cup, spots allocated for this event include one place for Australia, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Ukraine, and already two slots for China, Colombia, Great Britain, Russia and USA.
MEN'S 10M PLATFORM
In the 10m platform, the competition will also be fierce, with Colombians Solarte and Villa Castaneda fighting for a position in the Games (the South American nation has two confirmed spots in the 3m), Germany, Greece, Italy, Brazil or Malaysia also sending two athletes to double their possibilities, and Romania betting in Constantin Popovici. At almost 33, he will look for his second Olympic presence, after diving at the 2008 Games in Beijing (19th), before becoming a high diving star in recent years – silver at the 2018 World Cup and bronze in the same competition in 2019.
Nations confirmed so far in the higher board include: Australia, China, Great-Britain, Russia and USA, all with two places; and Canada, Egypt, France, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Ukraine, all with one qualification place.
WOMEN'S 3M SPRING
In the women’s field, the contenders are also determined to shine in the days to come. Despite having already secured its two places, Canada will count on the experienced Pamela Ware (silver medal in Barcelona 2013), while Italy will look for any available spot with Elena Bertocchi and Chiara Pellacani. Certainly motivated after her brilliant bronze in the 1m springboard event in Gwangju, Korean star Suji Kim will be one of the athletes to watch, as her country has still no qualified athlete in the 3m (the 1m springboard is not an Olympic event).
With one ticket so far in the pocket, Russia will send a strong duo, formed by Elizaveta Kuzina and Mariia Poliakova. USA has a bit more pressure, this being their own individual event with no qualified athletes before the World Cup – the North Americans want to remedy the situation, with the entry of Kassidy Cook (a regular and successful presence at the World Series) and Alison Gibson.
Before the Tokyo rendezvous, four nations have already two spots confirmed at this stage: Australia, Canada, China and Malaysia. Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia and Ukraine got one qualified athlete so far.
WOMEN'S 10M PLATFORM
In the 10m, Pandelela Pamg, from Malaysia, will just adapt to the Olympic facility, as the Asian nation already secured a spot in this event – and Pamg will obviously be the choice, after her two Olympic and five World Championships’ medals. From Russia, Iuliia Timoshinina will try to earn a place for her country, while Italy has before this World Cup its sole qualified athlete in individual events precisely in the platform competition.
Before the start of the World Cup, 13 nations have already qualified at least one athlete for the Games: Australia (2), Canada (2), China (2), Egypt (1), Great Britain (1), Italy (1), Japan (1), Malaysia (1), Mexico (1), Netherlands (1), DPR Korea (1), Ukraine (1) and USA (2).
In the synchro events, many other stars will be present at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre: in the men’s competition, we can name Daniel Restrepo (COL, 3m), Jack Laugher (GBR, 3m), Patrick Hausding (GER, 3m), Ken Terauchi (JPN, 3m), Yahel Castillo (MEX, 3m), Evgeny Kuznetsov (RUS, 3m), Tom Daley (GBR, 10m) or Oleksii Sereda (UKR, 10m). Among women, TV viewers of the World Cup in Tokyo (the event will be held without spectators on site) can cheer the performances of Jennifer Abel (CAN, 3m), Paola Espinosa (MEX, 3m), Meaghan Benfeito (CAN, 10m), Lois Toulson (GBR, 10m), Noemi Batki (ITA, 10m) or Alejandra Orozco (MEX, 10m).