By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Australian Rhiannan Iffland performed a series of perfectly executed dives to become the youngest winner of the women’s 20m high diving event at the world championships on Saturday.
Previously, the event has only been won by U.S. athletes since its introduction to the program four years ago in Barcelona.
However, 2013 champion Cesilie Carlton only managed sixth in Budapest, while 25-year-old Iffland scored a total of 320.70 points to claim the gold medal, having been second in the standings after Friday’s preliminary.
Adriana Jimenez of Mexico won silver with 308.90, while Yana Nestsiarava of Belarus scored 303.95 over the two days to finish with bronze.
Iffland, who won her first pro world cup event last year on a wildcard entry, said the setting in the Hungarian capital helped calm her nerves for each of her three jumps in the final.
“A lot of it is about mental strength, holding it together mentally as you step up to the platform,” she said, praising the location on the Danube river across from Hungary’s neo-Gothic Parliament building.
“Seeing the view – Parliament on the right and the city around – definitely took the edge off the diving,” she said.
Jimenez was out of the medal places until the very last jump, a contest-high 110-point three back somersaults.
Iffland, however, answered with a 96.90-point triple-back of her own to cement her place at the top of the overall standings and win gold.
All but two of the 10 women in the field compete in the pro world series circuit, and the sport’s growing popularity prompted global swimming body FINA to propose the International Olympic Committee add the sport to its events in Tokyo in 2020.
However, competitors were left disappointed when the IOC approved the Tokyo 2020 event program last month, without high-diving making the list.
“Every athlete’s dream is to compete in the Olympics,” Iffland said. “Unfortunately it’s not in now. We will keep pushing for it and fingers crossed the next Olympics will feature the sport.”
Los Angeles and Paris are in the running for the 2024 Games after several cities – including Budapest – pulled out.
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Christian Radnedge)