Constantin Popovici of Romania dives from the 27.5 metre platform during the final competition day of the third stop of the 2024 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Polignano a Mare, Italy on June 30, 2024. // Dean Treml

Romania’s Constantin Popovici scored a remarkable comeback victory at the third stop of the 2024 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in Polignano a Mare, Italy, while Rhiannan Iffland of Australia made it back-to-back wins this season in front of 40,000 spectators at the home of European cliff diving.

Popovici, who suffered a serious-looking knee injury at the previous stop in Boston just three weeks ago, got off to a slow start on the Adriatic coast before displaying almost mystical powers of recovery to fend off the strong challenge of this year’s surprise World Series leader, American James Lichtenstein. with just 0.25 points ultimately separating the two rivals in a thrilling conclusion.

“What can I say, I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to be healthy, I’m happy that I recovered from my two fractures because I had two fractures on my knee and I’m happy I delivered the great performance today”, said the defending champion, whose stunning Back 4 Somersaults 3 Twists Pike from the 27m platform in the final round catapulted him to victory.

“It’s really important because in Boston I lost a lot of points and they were getting ahead of me. But today I catch up. Second place
was good for James, and he’s still there in the lead, but I’m planning to catch up soon.”

Popovici now trails the super-consistent Lichtenstein by four points in the overall standings, and the 29-year-old American is relishing the battles ahead: “My two goals this season are to be healthy and be consistent. So far, I’m doing both. Hopefully it stays that way. It’s a tight race with all the guys, but it’s definitely a race that anyone can win this year.”

Great Britain’s Aidan Heslop sits five points further back on the leaderboard following his fourth-place finish in Italy.

The men’s podium was completed by Mexico’s Jonathan Paredes, who finished in the top three for the first time in five years, while an eye-catching performance from 20-year-old Andrea Barnaba saw him take an impressive sixth place on home soil.

The Italian wildcard also earned himself a bonus World Series point for the best dive of the competition – a second-round Inward 3 Somersaults ½ Twist Pike – which drew a 10 from head judge Anke Piper.

In the women’s competition, it was seven-time champion Iffland who extended her winning streak at this cliff diving mecca; the Australian topping the podium once again after returning to winning ways in Boston.

Even by her trailblazing standards, eight wins in the last eight competitions in this spot is a stunning record that can’t be matched by any diver in any location.

“That’s the eighth win here and I must have a connection with Polignano a Mare. Maybe it’s the ice cream,” joked Iffland following her victory.

“I just love coming back simply because of the energy of the crowd, it really contributes to the energy that you put into the dives. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight for the title this year. The pressure is going to push me and drive me and I can’t wait to
see how it all unfolds.”

American Kaylea Arnett, meanwhile, proved that a podium on her recent debut was no fluke as she took the runner-up spot for the second stop in a row, thanks in no small part to a majestic second-round Forward 3 Somersaults ½ Twist Pike from the 21m platform, a dive which also earned her an extra World Series point.

The 31-year-old has now received an invite to all remaining stops this season and looks certain to play a major part in what could be a thrilling title fight.

She currently sits in third place in the overall standings while Canada’s Molly Carlson, the winner at the season opener in
Athens, took third place to keep the heat on Iffland in the overall standings.

With one dive directly off a private balcony and three from the constructed platforms across three days of competition, sun-drenched Polignano a Mare once again tested the skills and versatility of the world’s best cliff divers.

Next up, they’ll have three weeks to rest and recover before facing an altogether different challenge as the season approaches its mid-way point on the rough Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland.


Red Bull Cliff Diving Polignano a Mare

1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 367.20pts.
2- Kaylea Arnett (W) USA – 332.55
3- Molly Carlson CAN – 327.10
4- Xantheia Pennisi AUS – 291.25
5- Ginni Van Katwijk (W) NED – 290.30
6- Simone Leathead CAN – 279.90
7- Elisa Cosetti (W) ITA – 276.60
8- Maria Paula Quintero COL – 270.60
9- Meili Carpenter USA – 256.20
10- Eleanor Smart USA – 211.70
11- Madeleine Bayon (W) FRA – 205.35
12- Yana Nestsiarava (W) IAT – 41.60


1- Constantin Popovici ROU – 418.65pts.
2- James Lichtenstein USA – 418.40
3- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 387.85
4- Aidan Heslop GBR – 385.15
5- Carlos Gimeno ESP – 378.30
6- Andrea Barnaba (W) ITA – 364.80
7- Yolotl Marinez (W) MEX – 354.90
8- Sergio Guzman (W) MEX – 352.80
9- Oleksiy Prygorov UKR – 352.50
10- Miguel Garcia (W) COL – 322.50
11- Nikita Fedotov IAT – 198.00
12- Davide Baraldi (W) ITA – 65.70

Standings (after 3 of 8 stops)

1- Rhiannan Iffland AUS – 57pts.
2- Molly Carlson CAN – 46
3- Kaylea Arnett (W) USA – 33
4- Simone Leathead CAN – 29
5- Meili Carpenter USA – 20


1- James Lichtenstein USA – 46pts.
2- Constantin Popovici ROU – 42
3- Aidan Heslop GBR – 37
4- Carlos Gimeno ESP – 28
5- Jonathan Paredes MEX – 22
Red Bull Cliff Diving World Serie

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