PLYMOUTH’S Aidan Heslop pulled off the most difficult dive in history to win a glorious gold at the FINA High Diving Qualifier – a victory that secures his spot at May’s World Championships in Fukuoka.
Across the two-day contest, staged in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Bay, teenager Heslop found himself second behind Romania’s Constantin Popovici after two rounds on day one, only two points off the summit.
Returning on Monday, the Plymouth star moved into the lead, thanks to a brilliantly-executed inward three somersaults with half a twist tuck (5461C) that earned him 95.40 point.
And, despite knowing he was on the verge of World Championship qualification, Heslop showed no nerves on the 27m platform ahead of his final dive, pulling off a breath-taking forward four somersaults with three-and-a-half twists pike (5187B) that ranks as the hardest ever, with a 6.2 degree of difficulty.
Strong scores across the board saw Heslop awarded 133.30 points to end with a total tally of 436.90, enough for the gold medal, 3.35 ahead of Catalin-Petru Preda of Romania.
The result also means the 19-year-old will be in line to represent Britain in the men’s high diving event at the World Championships in Fukuoka next May.
Heslop, who hopes to represent Wales at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in the 10m competition, described his win in Abu Dhabi as ‘unbelievable’.
“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,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I am on top of the world right now.”
NEW WORLD HARDEST DIVE!!!
— FINA (@fina1908) December 20, 2021
His Plymouth team-mate Owen Weymouth came 17th in a strong field in the same event.
It was a good day for Plymouth divers in Abu Dhabi as Matthew Dixon helped Great Britain to a silver medal in a team event competition on the 10m and three-metre board.
That event was also staged over two days, with Birch and Heatly teaming up from the three-metre springboard on day one, with one individual dive apiece, before a synchronised effort.
With the team sitting fifth at the halfway stage, Birch and Matthew Dixon then combined from the 10m platform in the same format. The pair’s forward three-and-a-half somrrsaults pike (107B) rounded out the competition, with their score of 67.50 points moving them on to 385.45 overall, behind only Brazil and earning a silver medal to round out 2021. The British team edged out favourites China for silver.