With the tenth season of the World Aquatics Scholarship Programme commencing in September, we ‘check in’ with some of the scholarship recipients in Fukuoka to learn how the scholarship programme will help them fulfil their potential.
A previous World Aquatics scholarship holder in 2021, Lithuania’s Sebastian Konecki returned to the world-leading scholarship program in 2023 with even greater motivation to build the profile of the sport in his Baltic homeland.
The pair is the next generation of the sport in a country that went nine years without a male diving representative at the World Aquatic Championships. From 2013 to 2022 it was only female divers that wore the yellow, green & red on the world stage, until Konecki snared a qualifying berth for the Budapest championships in 2022.
His performance in Budapest was less about where he placed – 41st in the Men’s 1m Springboard – and more about the fact Lithuanian male diving was back on the map.
His journey to Budapest started with a World Aquatics scholarship which provided Konecki with a vital opportunity to travel to Kazan, Russia, and train with some of the best emerging divers in the world.
When he arrived in Kazan in early January 2021, he told the World Aquatics team at the time that he was ready to use the scholarship to develop into the best possible diver he could be.
“When I landed in Kazan I felt a bit scared but also excited at the same time,” said Konecki at the start of his previous World Aquatics scholarship.
“I hope to start training as soon as possible and add more complicated dives to my list. I feel like I have to use this scholarship in the best possible way. I have only one single life, and I still have not achieved a lot, I would like to achieve much more."
Konecki will now return as a scholarship athlete in 2023 with the recent announcement of recipients coming at a perfect time for the diver.
A newly renovated pool in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius was meant to kickstart the next chapter of diving in the city, however access to the new facility has proved difficult which has impacted training.
“We have a new pool that has been built but they haven’t given us time to train,” Konecki told World Aquatics after the completion of the Men’s 3m Springboard event in Fukuoka.
“I also have a great coach, but he is now 75, so I will need some extra support and more physical preparation to be able to do harder dives.”
Konecki is currently training six times a week, balancing his university study to become a diving coach with training in Vilnius which is a daily two hour round trip.
“The more you train, the more you feel comfortable on the boards, and the better you perform,” said Konecki.
“And of course the training camps with the scholarship, and the strength & conditioning support, is also really important. The more you jump the better you become.”
Konecki placed in the second half of the competitors in the 3m Springboard event in Fukuoka on day five of competition but was optimistic about his performance given he broke a metatarsal in one of his feet last month.
“it’s a miracle that I could perform today as I didn’t do any dives at home for the past five weeks. It’s not the best performance, but I’m still here,” said Konecki.
The ‘Fukuoka Four’ with Sebastian
#1 - Swimming Idol
My coach Kestutis Autukas, he’s 75 years old and he’s a very renowned diving coach in Lithuania.
#2 - Favourite Pool
I really liked the outdoor pool in Rome for the 2019 Junior Diving World Cup (Stadio Olimpico del Nuoto, Roma, Italy).
#3 - Pump-Up Song
I like listening to rock or metal, but before the competitions I listen to some older slower rock songs to keep me calm.
#4 – Post Competition Plans
I’m going to stay in Japan and visit Tokyo, and then go back to Vilnius.
About the World Aquatics Scholarship Programme
Launched in 2014 with the aim of increasing the level of aquatics athletes in countries around the globe, the World Aquatics Scholarship Programme has just announced the scholarship recipient athletes for its tenth season. The main goal of the World Aquatics Scholarships Programme is to identify and create an optimal training environment for athletes aspiring to represent their countries at the next World Aquatics Championships and the Olympic Games. The programme aims to support athletes with greater needs and help them reach their full potential.