This is the 2014 dive that launched Carlos Gimeno’s high diving career.  

“It was a simple handstand [takeoff], like 2½ back, but the view looked pretty scary,” he says.

The video went viral, and after Gimeno saw that it had more than 100 million views, he said, “I got a lot of motivation. I wanted to do more.”

So the ex-gymnast from the Canary Islands decided to end his seven-year break from diving. He had just earned a university degree in social work and two months later, he said, “I had all the dives.”  Six months after that, he entered the 2015 World Cup high diving event, in Cozumel, Mexico, followed by the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. He placed 13th in both.

Image Source: Romina Amato/Getty Images

Lately, he’s been rocketing up the rankings with his harrowing upside-down takeoffs from the 27-meter tower – including the one that earned him a row of perfect scores from the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series judges at Downpatrick Head, Ireland, in 2021. He also now has a quint (five-somersault) dive worth 150-plus points that helped him take second place at the 2023 World Cup in Fort Lauderdale in May, and – finally – his first Red Bull victory in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in September.

Last year at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, he placed sixth.   

Few people know Gimeno’s backstory, however.

He and his older brother, Mariano, were raised by their mother and grandmother in the Canary Islands, Spain, off the coast of northwestern Africa. Carlos always had a connection with the ocean but from age 6 to 10, Gimeno (pronounced hee-MEN-oh) was a gymnast. He excelled on the parallel bars and was second at the national championships in his age group. But eventually, he grew bored with gymnastics and tried diving one day at a pool near his home.

Image Source: Gimeno diving in Downpatrick Head, Ireland (Ricardo Nascimento/Getty Images)

“The coach was like, ‘Oh my god, how you can do all of this? For most people, it takes so long. You'd be so amazing [in diving].’” Gimeno recalled. The coach convinced Gimeno’s mother – and Carlos – so he started diving.

From age 10 to 14, Gimeno did both springboard and platform. “I was actually better in 10m,” he said, “but for some reason, my coach stopped me doing 10m. So from 14 to 18, I did only 1m and 3m.” After a stint on the junior national team, he stopped to pursue social work studies at the Universidad de Granada and, later, universities in Crete and Madrid.

For the next six years, from ages 18 to 24, he didn’t dive at all.

In 2013, he watched the first FINA high diving world championships in Barcelona. He noticed that no one from the host country was competing. At the time, Gimeno, 24, was working at a water park in Rome called Zoomarine, doing aquatic acrobatics from 22-meter heights.

“I was training very hard,” he said. A year after his 2014 dive went viral on social media, he entered a few contests while performing in “The House of Dancing Water” in Macau, where he met his British wife, Georgia Sturt, a fellow diver in the show. (They now have a son, Jayden, who turned 2 in late January.)

Image Source: Gimeno competing off the 27m tower during the 16th FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Gimeno entered his first full year of competition in 2020.

In 2021 came the perfect armstand dive at the Red Bull stop in Ireland.  

“I was surprised,” Gimeno said of the score. “I didn't feel that was the perfect dive. [When I hit the water,] I didn't know exactly how my entry was. But then I see five 10s. That was the best feeling I had in sport. That's so difficult to do. I feel, in that moment, amazing.”

In 2022, he teamed up with his coach, Ramon Fumado, a three-time Olympic springboard diver for Venezuela (2000, 2004, and 2008).

Since then, Gimeno has been making podiums and giving away his hardware to his biggest fan, his beloved grandmother. When he won his first major event last September in the Red Bull World Series, off the iconic Mostar bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said the key was that he was finally able to get enough training reps on his back quint. He had been busy travelling to faraway competitions after placing second at the Red Bull stop on Boston that June, that it wasn’t until late summer when he returned to Area 47 (a water park in Austria) and perfected the quint somersault back (20(10)C), and his other optional dive: a handstand 4½  back.

But high divers don’t do as many repetitions as 3m and 10m divers because the impact of landing from the equivalent of an eight-story building is so much greater that it hurts. A lot. 

So for Gimeno, he said, “a lot of reps” meant “around 20 total repetitions of each dive in a few months. That's enough. That's when you start feeling confident and your brain and your body automatically know when to stop the dive. So after 20, I only have to focus at the end of the dive and that's it.”

Image Source: Gimeno preparing to dive on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series 2023 tour in Polignano a Mare, Italy (Dean Treml/Getty Images)

As for performing handstand takeoffs up at 27m where it can be windy, he said, “I don't look at the water. I look at the platform, then go for it. I do a lot of meditation. I visualize every single part of the dive. I imagine in my head: go up in the handstand, count the timing: one somersault, two somersault, three somersault, open the dive, then look at the water and make entry. I repeat this in my head a lot.”

Finding a place to train is another matter. There are very few 27m platforms in the world. So, in addition to Area 47, Gimeno goes to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, about a week before competition, if possible. His third main training base is Madrid where there is only a 12m and 15m platform “so from 15 meters, for example, I train four somersaults back. Then, from 12 meters, I train only one somersault, the last part of the dive. So I split it in two parts: the first part and the last part. And then I put it together in 27 meters.”

Image Source: Gimeno on the introductory athlete walkout for the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics)

Doha will mark Gimeno’s third world championships. Although he placed sixth at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, he admitted that it might be hard to beat the two men whose dive lists have a higher degree of difficulty: reigning world champion Constantin Popovici of Romania, and Aidan Heslop of Great Britain, but the Spaniard will be a fan favourite, identifiable on the pool deck by his rippled 170 cm (5-foot-7) frame, and a large tattoo on his right shoulder that includes a lion symbolizing power, a god “because in the old times, only gods jumped from the highest cliff,” he explained, and finally, a warrior which represents himself because “in competition, I always fight until the end.”