By Nick Hope
Aquatics correspondent in Fukuoka
Romanian Constantin Popovici delivered a 27m High Diving masterclass to claim his maiden World Championship title in the sport.
Popovici, who won the first-ever European high diving title at Roma 2022, competed in the 10m event at the Beijing 2008 and finished 18th in the discipline at Fukuoka 2023.
The 34-year-old, who added high diving to his programme in 2018 attained an impressive overall total of 472.80 from his four routines across two days of competition.
It saw him to finish ahead of countryman Catalin-Petru Preda (438.45) and Gary Hunt (426.30) of France in an all-European podium.
“It’s my first World Championships in the world of High Diving and I’ve been dreaming about this for the last few years,” said Popovici after the final.
“I have worked really hard for this and everyone knows my potential, but today I confirmed my potential and I have the title.”
Preda, who also took silver behind his national team-mate Popovici at last year’s Europeans, was pleased with his latest result, but admits he needs to consider changing some of his dives in order to improve his chances of attaining higher scores.
“I am happy for putting forward some of my best work so far and it’s a special moment getting my first podium at a World Championships,” said the Romanian.
“Definitely the difficulty of my list (of dives) was a factor because two-three years ago I had the hardest dives and now maybe I’m fifth or sixth.
“Costantin’s performance was amazing, but it motivates me to push further in the future and I’m leaving Fukuoka inspired for the future.”
Hunt, who formerly represented Great Britain, competed in the first World Championship High Diving competition back at Barcelona 2013, where he took silver.
He went on to claim gold in 2015 and 2021 before switching to his adopted nation of France in a bid to qualify as a 10m diver for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
That goal remains realistic, having also competed in the synchronised 10m platform event at Fukuoka 2023, but Hunt was delighted to return to the podium in his favoured 27m discipline.
“It means a lot and just being up on the podium is a gold medal for me,” he told World Aquatics.
“I’m really proud to win a first medal for France because the team has been so supportive and I dedicate this to them.”
Great Britain’s Aiden Heslop, who finished fifth in the event, was later honoured in person with the World Aquatics High Diver of the Year award for his achievements in 2022.