At the midpoint of the 2023 World Aquatics High Diving World Cup in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Constantin Popovici and two-time world champion Rhiannan Iffland are in first place after two dives but Carlos Gimeno and Molly Carlson trail by only 3.5 points and three-tenths of a point, respectively, setting up a tight race for gold on Saturday.
Two of the four dives that will determine the winner of the World Aquatics High Diving World Cup 2023 were contested on Friday and it’s still anyone’s game.
In the women’s event, the top five are separated by only 13.70 points. Canada’s Molly CARLSON led after the first dive (in which the difficulty was capped at 2.6) but Australia’s Rhiannan IFFLAND pulled ahead in round two with an inward triple with a half twist (5461C) to increase her total score to 163.20. CARLSON now trails IFFLAND by .30 points with two dives to go on Saturday. Canada’s Simone LEATHEAD is in third, followed by a fourth-place tie between Meili CARPENTER of the US and Jessica MACAULAY of Canada.
“After not high diving since November,” IFFLAND, 31, said, “I just wanted to put them down solid,” she said of her two dives, each of which scored 8.5’s across the board. “On both, I was a little bit hesitant lining up for the entry but the rest of the dives had a lot of flow and, technically, I felt was okay – so the training on 10-meter paid off.”
"I just wanted to put them down solid. On both, I was a little bit hesitant lining up for the entry but the rest of the dives had a lot of flow."
Trailing IFFLAND by 8.30 points in third place, Simone LEATHEAD, 20, said, “Pretty much everything [went right today]. I’m super happy with what I did. I was just focusing on key words and what I had to do to stay vertical. I don’t feel any pressure; I’m here for experience. I’m pretty confident in my ability to do these dives.”
On the men’s side, there was a three-way tie for first place after the first dive in which all 31 athletes maxed out the 2.8 degree of difficulty allowed. In the second dive, Constantin POPOVICI broke the tie with his triple-twisting back quad that carried a 5.8 DD to pull ahead with 217.70 points total. The Romanian is seeking his first World Cup victory after taking silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019.
Carlos GIMENO of Spain, 33, broke into the top three in round two with a well-executed armstand back 4½ with a 5.6 DD and now trails POPOVICI by 3.5 points, and is 13.75 points ahead of the two-time world champion Gary HUNT, 38.
Surprisingly, Aidan HESLOP of Great Britain had a rough go of his 6.2 degree-of-difficulty dive (a forward quad with 3½ twists, the hardest dive thrown on Friday) and sits in fourth place, 4.05 points behind HUNT.
POPOVICI, 34, said, “I could have done a bit better on the second dive. I was just hair short. The head should have been more straight and it would have been nice, but it’s okay.”
Now in his fifth year of competitive high diving, the Romanian said that spreading out the four dives over two days made perfect sense. To put them all on one day, he said, “is possible but people would get injured. They used to have three dives in a one-day competition, but it’s risky: three dives plus training dives. We land like 85, 90 kilometers per hour. It’s really tough on the legs. If you get tired and you don’t hit your dives right, it’s very easy to get injured.”
"We land like 85, 90 kilometers per hour. It’s really tough on the legs. If you get tired and you don’t hit your dives right, it’s very easy to get injured.”
GIMENO, who had the highest-scoring second dive (earning 142.80 points), said “I went for it, waited for the moment to open in the right position, and mastered the entry. All the training we did in Spain was in the right direction, every day, two times per day. This is the only way you can get a good score.”
HUNT, now competing for France after winning the last four consecutive World Cup titles for his native Great Britain, said, "the first dive [a back double] is a dive I love to do, where I can show my style, my strength. It went really well. I was enjoying first place.
"The second dive was a front triple with 3½ twists. I was about to do it in training yesterday and then the rain came so I put it off till today. It’s the first high dive of the year. I wasn’t 100 percent confident. It wasn’t as clean an entry as I would have liked but I’m on the podium for now, so I’m happy.”
“I’m lucky that some of the others made some mistakes,” HUNT added. “Constantin was solid from start to finish. I think that Aidan [HESLOP] will not be happy with his second-round dive; I’m ahead of him.”
Other surprises, Hunt said, was that James LICHTENSTEIN, an ex-trampoline athlete from the US is in ninth and Carlos GIMENO jumped into second place for now. “I didn’t know he was doing this dive [629C] and he smashed it so we have another contender,” HUNT said of the Spaniard.
“Lots of young guys stepped the game up this year,” HUNT added. “I had the title of the hardest dive in the world for almost a decade. At the time, it was a back triple with four twists. Now the hardest dive in the world is a back quad with four twists. Aidan [HESLOP] is doing that. I’m somewhere in the middle of the pack now. My job now is to be steady and the other guys have to take the risks. We’ll see what happens.”
“Lots of young guys stepped the game up this year.”
The 2023 High Diving World Cup concludes on Saturday with women and men each making their third and fourth dives. The diver with the highest point total after four dives will be the winner.
Watch it One More Time
Similar to Friday, organizers have moved up the start time to avoid bad weather in the afternoon. Saturday’s action will now begin at 11:00 Eastern with the women’s third dive, followed by the men’s third dive, the women’s fourth dive, concluding with the men’s fourth dive. Award ceremonies will begin at 14:10.