High diving is always a fan favourite, and it’s easy to see why.
At the World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024, dozens of phenomenally intrepid and exquisitely skilled athletes will launch themselves off sky-high towers of 27 meters (for men) and 20 meters (for women) and flip, twist, and land feet-first like spears into a small outdoor pool in the Old Port along the Doha corniche.
Add deejays and exuberant athlete introductions where divers will break dance, walk out on their hands – even flip themselves into the pool – and the tone is set for a great show.
Judges reward both difficulty and clean execution, and the highest cumulative scores after four dives determine the winners.
Although high diving is not in the Olympics (yet), the sport is growing rapidly. Doha 2024 will mark the sixth time that World Aquatics has crowned a high diving world champion.
Meet eight contenders who have the best shots at claiming the top prize.
Women to Watch at the Worlds in Doha
Rhiannan Iffland. Last July, at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, the Australian won her third consecutive world title – the first high diver in history to do so. Iffland has recorded perfect seasons without a loss. She has performed perfect dives that earned all 10.0s from the judges. But she may be best known for her bulletproof Barani, the final half-twisting maneuver that ensures a vertical feet-first entry – a skill she honed as a trampoline athlete.
Molly Carlson. Through the end of 2023, Carlson was the only woman to beat Iffland since 2019 – and she did it three times. After the Canadian claimed the 2023 world championship silver medal at age 24 in her world championship debut, the redhead beat Iffland at a Red Bull event in Bosnia in September – on Iffland’s 32nd birthday. It was a major confidence booster because Carlson claimed the victory with a slightly-easier version of a dive than she used in Fukuoka.
Jessica Macaulay. The two-time world championship bronze medalist (for Great Britain in 2019 and for Canada in 2023) was set to retire after the last World Championships. But when the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series finale was postponed (due to a sinkhole near the New Zealand venue) and re-scheduled for January 28, 2024, the new date was so close to the Doha championships that she delayed her retirement as well. Last year, Macaulay completely changed her mental game and, in December, finished second to Carlson at the Canadian qualifier.
Simone Leathead. The ‘Next Gen’ Canadian diver shot out of nowhere to place fourth at last year’s world championships. Leathead was a 3-meter springboard athlete who took her very first dive from 20 meters in February 2023 – just one year ago. Since then, her coach, Stéphane Lapointe, said the 20-year-old has improved tremendously and can now do the most difficult dive on the women’s side: a forward four somersaults with a half twist from a standing start, unlike Carlson who uses a running takeoff to initiate the 4.4 DD dive.
Likely Top Men's Medal Contenders
Constantin Popovici. The defending world champion from Romania has, over time, proven to be nearly indestructible. In 2019, he scored a perfect dive just three months after breaking four bones in his foot. He ruptured a lung in 2022 and dove three weeks later. He’s even been known to high dive wearing wetsuit in the dead of winter. Popovici is as meticulous as he is tough – the kind of guy who preferred to rest rather than party after he won his first world title in Fukuoka because the season wasn’t finished.
Aidan Heslop. Last season, the 21-year-old British phenom pushed the degree of difficulty to an unprecedented 6.6 on the men’s tower. But his groundbreaking dive, a back four somersaults with four twists is hard to practice – not only because of its velocity on impact, but also because he trains at a world-class facility in Montreal that tops out at 20 meters. Over the last seven months, however, Heslop has learned to control his speed on the final somersault, and while we’re unlikely to see the 6.6 dive in Doha, he still has a novelty on his dive list: a forward quad with a half twist less (worth 6.2 DD).
Catalin-Petru Preda. The Romanian had only been high diving competitively for four years when he claimed the silver medal at the 2023 world championship at age 32. Afterwards, he said, “I have my eyes on the future. I know what to work on. I’ll be back for gold, for sure.” But in order to upset Popovici and Heslop, he will probably have to increase the complexity of his two optional dives (which have no limit on the degree of difficulty).
Carlos Gimeno. The crowd-pleaser from the Canary Islands will attempt to become the first Spanish diver to win a world championship medal on 27 meters. Gimeno is known for his harrowing handstand dives. He beat Popovici, Heslop, Preda, and all other top guns at the final Red Bull event last September, with a quint dive (featuring five flips) from the iconic Mostar bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now 34, this could be his year to shine.