1. Rousseau Snaps China’s Streak

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

China hadn’t lost a diving event at the world championships in six years – until July 22, 2023, when Cassiel Rousseau of Australia blasted into first place in the men’s 10m final. The tattooed ex-gymnast had only been diving seriously for about five years when he seized the lead in the very last diving event at the  World Aquatics Championships, in Fukuoka, Japan, forcing the final diver, Lian Junjie to earn at least 106.55 points in order to keep China undefeated in every world championship diving event it had entered since 2017. When the judges awarded Lian 98.05 points on his forward 4½ tuck (with 3.7 DD), a new nation and a new continent had captured a world diving title of its own.

Image Source: Hiroyuki Nakamura/World Aquatics

In 2024, the 22-year-old Rousseau hopes to make his Olympic debut in Paris and win diving gold for Australia like his grandfather, Michel Rousseau, did for France in track cycling at the Melbourne 1956 Games. 

2. Viva Mexico!

Image Source: Silver medallists Team Mexico during the medal ceremony for the Mixed Team Event at the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Wataru NINOMIYA/World Aquatics)

North America also had a riveting breakthrough in 2023. Despite budget cuts and turmoil with its national federation, Mexico turned in its best performance in world championship history last summer, earning six medals – two more than its previous best in 2019. The only nation to earn more diving medals than Mexico at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships was China, with 19.

Image Source: Kevin Berlin Reyes and Randal Willars Valdez of Team Mexico compete in the Men's Synchronized 10m Platform Final at the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Mexico’s success also meant that it qualified at least five divers who can compete in individual events at next summer’s Paris 2024 Olympics – plus one entry in the men’s 10m synchro event. 

In Mexico, diving is the preeminent Olympic sport; no other sport has produced more Olympic medals (15). But Mexico’s lone diving gold came 67 years ago, at the 1956 Melbourne Games, when Joaquin Capilla won the men’s 10m platform event to claim the fourth and final medal of his Olympic career.


3. Plot Twist at the Berlin Super Final

Image Source: Sayaka Mikami competes in Women's 3m springboard (Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics)

At the World Aquatics Diving World Cup 2023 Super Final in Berlin in August, China’s clean sweep of the eight Olympic diving disciplines almost didn’t happen.  Just two weeks after the world championships, Japan’s Sayaka Mikami, 22, threw the most difficult dive in the final round of the women’s 3m contest – a dive that Mikami had been working for six years. It was a 5154 (double-twisting 2½ flips with 3.4 DD) and Mikami nailed it. She scored 7.5s for a total of 76.50, and, suddenly, the two-time world champion Chen Yiwen of China faced rare pressure. In the end, Chen ultimately eked out the victory, a slim 1.55 points over Mikami.

Image Source: Silver medallist Sayaka Mikami from Japan, gold medallist Yiwen Chen from China, and Bronze medallist Yani Chang complete the podium at the World Aquatics Diving World Cup 2023 - Super Final in Berlin, Germany (Inaki Esnaola/Getty Images)

Yet if Mikami continues to perfect that dive in 2024, she could push the women’s 3m event to a new level. (The highest DD among her competitors in Berlin was 3.1.) Overall, women have had a hard time doing triple flips off the 3m springboard because it requires so much strength and power to push the board down hard enough to get the height necessary to launch 3½ like the men. But by adding a second twist, Mikami may have a winning edge.

Image Source: Hiroyuki Nakamura/World Aquatics


4. China Qualified the Maximum Number of Divers for the Paris 2024 Olympics

Image Source: Yani Chang and Yiwen Chen of Team China compete under the eye of the judges in the Women's Synchronized 3m Springboard Final during the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

By capturing 19 medals at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, China became the first nation to qualify the maximum number of diving entries at the Paris 2024 Olympics. That means it can have one slot in each of the four synchro events and two entries apiece in the four individual events. 

Image Source: Yuxi Chen and Hongchan Quan of China compete in the Women's Synchronized 10m Platform Final (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Remarkably, despite all its dominance, China has never claimed every diving gold medal offered at a single Olympics. At the last Games, in Tokyo, China won everything but the men’s 10m synchro event. In Rio 2016, it won all but the men’s 3m synchro final.    

5. Double Duty for 27m Men: Gary Hunt and Constantin Popovici

Image Source: Constantin Popovici competes in Men's 10m Platform preliminaries (David Balogh/World Aquatics)

Even though 27m high diving isn’t an Olympic event, two of the world’s best cliff divers had Paris 2024 on their minds during the first week of the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka. That’s why Gary Hunt, 39, and Constantin Popovici, 35, were competing indoors and head-first on the 10m platform.

Popovici, the Romanian ace, was trying to qualify for his second Olympics (and first since 2008). Under pressure, however, Popovici finished 18th in men’s individual 10m, but only the top-12 made the cut so he will try to qualify again this February at the world championship in Doha, Qatar, where another 12 berths will be allocated.

Image Source: Gary Hunt and Jade Gillet of France compete in Mixed Synchronized 10m Platform (David Balogh/World Aquatics)

Meanwhile, the British-born Hunt didn’t have to qualify for Paris. He now represents France which is automatically qualified in the 10m events as the Olympic host nation. Yet there Hunt was, in the Fukuoka pool, trying to perfect his timing and skills in the 10m synchro event. He placed 17th with Lois Szymczak and said that for the first time in his long career, he will skip the 27m tour next year to prepare for Paris on 10m.

Notably, during the second week in Fukuoka, both men returned to the 27m tower where Popovici won his first world title and the two-time world champion Hunt earned the bronze.