This week at Old Doha Port, Constantin Popovici, 35, of Romania and Rhiannan Iffland, 32, of Australia were named the male and female 2023 Athlete of the Year for high diving.

It was one award that Popovici didn’t already have.

Image Source: Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics

The 2023 World Cup and 2023 World Championship gold medalist, Popovici, said, “I’m very happy with my 2023 season, and I hope for a better 2024,” not mentioning the fact that it was amazing that he competed at all last year. In 2022, he punctured a lung in training when landing a back four somersaults with three twists. Every time he breathed, air would exit the hole in his lung and get trapped in the lining of his chest. There was a high risk that his lung could collapse. Yet, two or three weeks later, he was diving again (in pain) and, last spring and summer, he used the exact same dive to win both of his 2023 World Aquatics titles.

All the while, he was doing did double duty: trying to qualify for his second Olympic team on the 10m platform and win his first world title in (27m) high diving. He achieved the latter, and with the 2023 “Athlete of the Year” trophy came a check for 10,000 USD.

“For sure, it will go toward investment in my training,” Popovici said. “I always invest extra because it pays off.”

Image Source: World Aquatics

Meanwhile, Iffland, who just won her fourth consecutive women’s world championship title on Wednesday, was honoured for the gold-medal three-peat she achieved seven months ago in Fukuoka, Japan.

“Fukuoka, that was the special one,” she said. “I was really proud of my performance there, going to [world title] number three. Pulling it off was special.

“I had a very strong season last year,” she added. “I’m super happy to receive this once again. It’s going straight to mum’s cabinet!”

As for the prize money, Iffland said, “I will start with a holiday – somewhere tropical!"