1. Aidan Heslop Pushes Difficulty to 6.6

Image Source: Aidan Heslop in flight (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

In May 2023, at the World Cup in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Aidan Heslop, became the first man in the world to throw a “back quad-quad” in competition. It was the hardest competitive high dive in the world, carrying a 6.6 degree of difficulty.

It entailed starting backwards, cranking out 3½ twists in the first somersault followed by two front flips and a Barani (somersault with half twist). The Brit had already been executing the previously-hardest dive on tour in 2022. That, too, was a quad, but it featured a running takeoff, 3½ twists, and 6.2 DD. By adding a half twist and starting backwards, the 21-year-old ramped up the difficulty by a factor by 0.4 – a significant margin.

“They say I’m nuts,” Heslop said. “Yeah, I get it.”

2. Rhi Wins World Championship Gold No. 3

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

In July 2023, Rhiannan Iffland of Australia became the first high diver to win three world championship titles. The 31-year-old Iffland claimed her three-peat in Fukuoka, Japan. It was a remarkable run for the ex-trampolinist who has lost only three times since 2019 – each time to 24-year-old Molly Carlson of Canada (first at the 2022 Red Bull season opener in Boston, then the 2023 World Aquatics World Cup in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in May, and, later, at the 2023 Red Bull event in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in September).

Iffland appreciated the competition. “It’s exciting to battle with Molly,” she said after beating Carlson for world gold by 34.60 points.

3. Constantin Popovici Wanted to Win it All in 2023 and He Got the Big One: His First World Title.

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

Romania’s Constantin Popovic had said he wanted to win everything in 2023 and, despite the extreme heat during his final dive at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, he achieved his greatest goal – winning a world title by 34.35 points over his countryman and silver medalist Catalin-Petru Preda.

Popovici, 34, said that becoming world champion meant more to him than all his other victories (i.e. 2022 European champion, 2023 World Cup winner).

“Definitely, this was the hardest one and the most desirable one,” he said at Momochi Beach afterwards. “You’re in the history books, you know?”

4. A Remarkable Show of Depth by the Canadian Women’s Team

Image Source: Simone Leathead formed part of the powerful Canadian high diving team that went 2,3,4 at the Worlds in Fukuoka (Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics)

The Canadian women’s high diving team revealed formidable depth at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, placing 2-3-4 behind Rhiannan Iffland. After each of the four dives, the trio shifted among itself a bit in the standings but, in the end, Molly Carlson claimed silver in her world championship debut. Jessica Macaulay took her second consecutive world bronze at age 30 (less than two points behind Carlson), and 20-year-old Simone Leathead placed fourth after just five months of training on 20-meter towers.

Image Source: Molly Carlson with her Canadian teammates after the final dives at the Seaside Momochi Beach Park venue for the Worlds in Fukuoka, Japan (Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics)

Part of Canada’s secret sauce is that it is home to one of the few 20-meter indoor platforms in the world  (at the 1976 Olympic venue in Montreal) so the team has a year-round place to train. All three have the same coach: Stéphane Lapointe. They also derive inspiration from their international training group that includes several other pros on the Red Bull series, including Aidan Heslop whose barrier-breaking difficulty level is mirrored by Carlson on the women’s side with her 4.4 DD forward quad flip with a half twist.

In Fukuoka, Carlson added, “The support we’ve had from our federation is incredible. To finish on the podium with Jess and Simone right behind [me], was a dream come true for Canada… I can’t wait for what’s next.”

5. Gary Hunt Announces his First Break From High Diving

Image Source: Gary Hunt of France dives from the 25.5 metre balcony during a Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2023 event in Polignano a Mare, Italy. (Romina Amato/Getty Images)

After competing in every Red Bull Cliff Diving event since the series began and all five editions of high diving at the World Aquatics Championships, Gary Hunt said he plans to sit out the 2024 season on the 27-meter tower to prepare for his Olympic debut on the 10m platform in Paris at age 40.

Hunt made the decision even though he captured his fourth world championship medal in 2023, a bronze in Fukuoka.  (He also won 2015 gold, 2019 gold, and 2013 silver.)

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

Were he to suddenly appear on the tower in February 2024 in Doha, at his sixth world high diving championships, he said it would be by a special invitation due to his absence in regular competition.

Hunt was optimistic, however. “I’ll be in Doha anyway for 10m synchro [an Olympic event] so hopefully I’ll be able to do both,” he said.