Popovici – no, not that one – wins High Diving gold

Simone Castrovillari / LEN
Nick Hope byline

Constantin Popovici claimed the first ever men’s European Championship High Diving gold on dramatic evening of action at the Foro Italico.

A Romanian athlete with the surname Popovici standing on top of the podium has been a familiar sight at Roma 2022 – with Constantin’s namesake David claiming two European titles and a world record in the pool.

However, this historic moment belonged exclusively to the high diver as the men’s competition reached its conclusion.

The women’s event, won by Iris Schmidbauer of Germany on Friday had been completed inside 48 hours, but the men’s was stretched over three days, with one round on each of the first two.

As such, fans packed into the venue were treated to two final rounds of spectacular action as the best divers in the continent battled it out for the landmark gold.

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Catalin-Petru of Romania had held a narrow lead of just 1.40 over two-time world champion Gary Hunt after the opening round on Thursday and extended that to 13.45 heading into the final dive.

With ‘mega scores’ – which far exceed those possible in 3m springboard and 10m platform diving – possible in this discipline though there were at least six divers realistically capable of challenging for the medals.

Carlos Gimeno Martinez of Spain was the first to put down a high scoring three figure score – 127.20, but earlier errors meant his would not be in contention for the podium.

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Alessandro de Rose, in fourth after the third round, certainly would and 124.55 wase enough for bronze as Frenchman Gary Hunt slipped down the leader board. 

33-year-old Beijing 2008 Olympic 10m diver Popovici was in third before his incredible final routine – which scored 147.00 – put him top of the pack.

Countryman and previous leader Preda scored well – 112.20. It would not be enough for gold, but he was still happy with silver.

“This gold is very special to me,” Popovici told LEN TV after achieving a total of 455.70 from his four routines.

“I know Alessandro (de Rose) for ten years and Rome has been in my heart since the 2009 Worlds when I competed in the 10m platform.

“And of course it’s a very big coincidence – the name Popovici, we know each other, myself and David Popovici a great guy and great athlete and I’m happy we both won gold!”

Silver medallist Preda – after attaining a total of 436.20 – said the experience was “absolutely awesome” and hailed the “energy of the crowd.”

Home favourite and Rome-based diver de Rose was full of praise or the Italian Federation after attaining his score of 416.45, which secured bronze.

“This title gives me very strong emotions and what I want to say is that this is not my medal, I owe it to the whole Italian Federation, to our team manager Markus Stuppner, who believed in this project, to the staff and to Oreste Varese.”

Italy, who also claimed bronze through female diver Elisa Cosetti on Friday, were awarded the High Diving team of the tournament award for their combined performances across the two events.

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