Swimmers love to swim. Divers love to leap from dizzying heights. Water polo players love to... well, we think you get the idea. Professional aquatics athletes love to take part in the sports they compete in. Following their passion determines much of their lives - from when they sleep to what they eat to how much they train - all in the quest to perfect their performance. But that doesn't mean that's all elite aquatics athletes are up to, especially during the offseason.
From the surf to the sky to diamond rings, here's what some of the stars of our sports have been up to recently.
Rhiannan Iffland – Surfing
Taking to diving at age 10, Iffland found the sport as a way to “mix my love of water and acrobatics. Since I started, I’ve never looked back.”
The 30-year-old Aussie from New South Wales has consistently performed at high diving’s highest level, and no year more so than in 2019 when she put together a dream season. On top of picking up gold medals at the FINA World Championships 2019 High Diving and FINA High Diving World Cup, Iffland won all seven of the Red Bull Cliff Diving stops.
If you were checking in with Iffland around the new year after the 2021 season concluded in Abu Dhabi (where, yes, she continued her winning ways in the women’s 20m FINA High Diving Qualifier event), you probably would have found her on a shortboard surfing her home break.
That’s not a coincidence, says Iffland. “My favourite hobby is 100 percent surfing. I grew up as a young child always surrounded by the beach so it’s just second nature for me to be here, surrounded by the ocean. It’s also something I do to take my mind away from everything. For fitness, it’s at a different level. To surf with friends is just the best feeling in the world.”
Added Iffland: “Staying fit, having fun and feeling the thrills is the main goal.”
Aidan Heslop - Skydiving
If you’re a thrill-seeking, high diving Brit like Aidan Heslop you could be found taking your jumping to new heights. Three days after taking the 27m men’s title at the FINA High Diving Qualifier 2021 in Abu Dhabi, footage has emerged of the 21-year-old skydiving above Jumeirah Beach in Dubai. An avid rock climber and parkour athlete when he’s away from the high dive platform, left the plane with a parachute on his back and these somewhat sage words of advice,” If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you… ✈️😉”
For the self-described “hyperactive, adventurous and crazy” Heslop who says he’d be a BMX rider or skateboarder if he wasn’t a professional high diver, keeping his feet firmly on terra firma isn’t something he’s too accustomed to, although we did catch him trekking through the desert with Canadian high diver Molly Carlson.
Sarah Sjostrom – A winter sports sessions, with a special one to remember
Coming from snowy Sweden, it’s not out of the ordinary to have found Sjostrom out doing several sports we’ll find in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. What is surprising, though, is that when Sjostrom was rocking this bright orange onesie on the slopes of Courchevel in the French Alps it was the first time she’d been on skis.
Riding the T-bar and practising the pizza and French fry alpine skiing technique, though, was just a prelude for what was to come!
Heading up to Jokkmokk above Sweden’s Arctic Circle for a cross-country skiing and camping trip, Sjoestroem’s boyfriend of 10 years, Johan de Jong Skierus, got up before the sun in minus 15-degree temperatures. He then got down on one knee and pulled out a diamond ring.
Sjostrom’s reply? “First I said get up you’ll get cold…And then I said YES!”
Florian Wellbrock and Sarah Kohler – trading in their swimsuits for tux and gown
The last time we saw Florian Wellbrock in the water, he was setting the short course world record in the 1500m in the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) after winning the men’s 10km open water event in Abu Dhabi. A fitting cap to a storybook season that saw the 24-year-old that won Olympic gold in the Men’s 10km Marathon Swim and bronze in the 1500m Freestyle, right? Think again.
The Bremen-born and two-time FINA World Championship titlist tied the knot with fellow German freestyle star Sarah Kohler – herself a two-time FINA World Championship winner in 2019 as well.
Since the wedding, Kohler’s social media now refers to her as ‘Sarah Wellbrock’ so we may be seeing this new name on the results sheet going forward.