Aidan Heslop claimed gold at Fina High Diving Qualifier in Abu Dhabi
Aidan Heslop claimed gold at Fina High Diving Qualifier in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Yas Bay was the place to be, as spectators witnessed a thrilling competition for top honours in the Fina High Diving Qualifier 2021. Each athlete was cheered on, and the spectacular dives received well-deserved appreciation.

Nineteen-year-old Aidan Heslop took the lead after the first round on day two, moving him into the day’s last diving position. His performance would determine the podium and the statement he made competing in an event of this magnitude was loud and clear: Heslop has arrived on the High Diving scene.

Heslop began dreaming about being a high diver since age 12, and he’s been preparing and waiting to be old enough to be allowed to compete at a Fina event. Heslop’s final dive had an insane 6.2 degree of difficulty, yet the young athlete remained composed and received sevens from the judges – just enough to claim the gold medal with 436.90 points.

Heslop said: “Unbelievable, I don’t know what is going on. I thought that I messed up a little bit on the last dive and that it would drop me down, but magically I am in first. I can’t believe it. I am on top of the world right now.”

The battle for the silver and bronze medals was a fierce one between the Romanians Catalin-Petru Pedra and Constantin Popovici, and the Russian Swimming Federation’s Artem Silchenko. Many dives were spectacular in scoring nines; other dives came with extreme degrees of difficulty. Silchenko’s intermediate dive – the one which brought him to the top of the ranking in round three – was spectacular.

His performance of a back 2 Somersaults 11/2 Twists in the free position received all 10s. Still, it was not enough for Silchenko as his final dive did not score high enough to reach the podium.

In the women’s event, Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland was in control of the event from the first round to the end with her performance in Abu Dhabi solidifying her place of dominance in women’s High Diving. The reigning 2017 and 2019 world champion - displayed poise and precision throughout her optional and required dives to win gold with a 359.60 point final score.

“I am really excited about my performance today; I was very confident coming in this morning because I dove so strong yesterday. I wanted to make it mine, and I did it,” Iffland said.