For a sport that sees high divers plunge from heights of up to 27 metres at speeds approaching 90 kilometres per hour into water, it seems odd that this form of diving hasn’t yet scaled the heights of Olympic Games inclusion.
Away from the sky-high platforms that have been in full swing during the Abu Dhabi leg of the FINA High Diving World Cup at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend, the extreme sport is fighting its own version of vertigo – the battle to make it part of world sport’s biggest event.
Indeed, it’s a challenge FINA, the international governing body that administrates six disciplines of aquatics sports, is facing head on.
FINA recently announced it submitted a proposal for high diving to be included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as a separate, new discipline to that of indoor, springboard and platform diving we have become accustomed to seeing on television at the Games.
Ultimately, the final decision over whether we will see it in Japan rests with the International Olympic Committee and a verdict is expected to be made later this year.
Indeed, the IOC have the power to decide whether high diving should be added to the Olympics roster – either as a new sport or an extra discipline under the diving umbrella. Simply put, the latter is the most likely route into the Games for high diving given that many new sports receive IOC recognition – but that doesn’t necessarily mean an Olympics green light comes with it.
High diving is not what you would class as a globally-competed sport and this is a huge criteria for the IOC to decide whether it merits the Olympic nod or not. Basically, the more countries and athletes competing, the better in their eyes – and understandably so.
However, the fact the item is now firmly on the agenda is excellent news all round for diving and highlights further signs of progress for a unique activity that is already part of the World Aquatics Championships (debuting as a sport in Barcelona in 2013).
“High diving is an extreme sport and will certainly bring an added value to the Olympic programme. Since the introduction of high diving in the FINA programme in 2013, the evolution has been amazing, and the moment has come to go further,” Cornel Marculescu, FINA executive, said earlier this week.
The success of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series – high diving’s thrill-seeking and more dangerous sibling if you like – has also boosted the profile and glamour associated with diving.
One thing is for sure, as a spectacle, there are few sports that spark the adrenaline rush of seeing athletes fly through the air at a serious rate of knots.
“The Olympic Games is the dream of any athlete really, it’s the pinnacle – it’s the biggest stage you can perform on. That’s of course a big driving force for me and all the high divers to see our sport at the Olympics,” Gary Hunt, who is proclaimed as the world’s best high diver and is defending champion in Abu Dhabi, told Sport360.
The Briton, who resides in Paris – one of the bidding cities to host the 2024 Olympics – is one of the faces of his sport and known for his complex dives. Hunt won the FINA High Diving World Cup last year, adding to his 2015 world title and six Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series crowns.
He may not possess anywhere near the same status as the likes of Roger Federer or Valentino Rossi, but for Hunt, helping to raise the profile of high diving with ambassadorial work and doing his bit to make it an Olympic sport is just as important as how he performs himself.
“I definitely feel that the sport has been on the up since Barcelona, it’s really been a domino effect. Lots of different and important people have opened their eyes to high diving,” the 32-year-old said.
“It’s becoming more and more popular and as I see more and more extreme sports getting accepted into the Olympics, it seems inevitable to me that we will be part of it in the near future.
“In my eyes, it’s just a matter of time and I’ll do everything I can to help push the sport as far as it can go.”
The second and final day of the the FINA High Diving World Cup takes place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Admission is free for spectators.
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