(L-R) Aidan Heslop of the UK, Gary Hunt of France and Catalin Preda of Romania celebrate on the podium during the final competition day of the seventh stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series at Polignano a Mare, Italy on September 18, 2022. (Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool/PA)
A British diver has said he is “on top of the world” to take second place in the world’s largest cliff diving competition.
Aidan Heslop, from Plymouth, represented Great Britain in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, where divers execute acrobatics as they jump from heights of more than 25 metres.
Mr Heslop came in second place over the weekend in the penultimate event of the 2022 cliff diving season in Polignano a Mare, Italy.
Aidan Heslop dives from the 28-metre platform during the final competition day (Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool/PA)
The young athlete went into his final dive in fifth place but climbed up the leader board after receiving a 10 from the judges for a spectacular dive.
Speaking to the PA news agency in Italy, Mr Heslop said: “I’m on top the world.
“To jump from fifth place to second and get scored a 10 on the way is not a bad feeling.
“The atmosphere in Polignano is always great, we love this stop because the crowd is always amazing here.
“I did my first ever Red Bull competition here in 2018, so it’s a special place for me here.”
Cliff diving, also known as high diving, is a subcategory of the Olympic style of diving but the main difference is that the divers enter the water feet first.
“The impact is so hard from 28 metres that if you land on your hands, you’re not going to have a good time,” Mr Heslop said.
“Safety is a big part of what we do and the type of training I do is very similar to the Olympic divers.”
I did kind of always know that I’d be in this position at some point but not at 20 years old
Mr Heslop was joined on the winners’ podium on Sunday by France’s Gary Hunt, who came first, and Catalin Preda, of Romania, who was third.
His mother Helen Heslop and her husband travelled to Polignano watch him compete and said she is “beyond proud” of his achievements.
“Obviously it is nerve-wracking to watch but I am absolutely beyond proud of Aidan,” she told PA.
“He has worked so hard for this and what he has achieved at such a young age is amazing.”
In 2018, Mr Heslop became the youngest diver to compete in the Red Bull World Series, aged 16, and he represented Wales in the Commonwealth Games in Australia that year.
Four years on, he admits he “always knew” he would be successful but never imagined he would get to this level at such a young age.
“I did kind of always know that I’d be in this position at some point but not at 20 years old,” he said.
The Red Bull cliff diving events have led to more than just competition success for Mr Heslop.
The event is the world’s largest cliff diving competition (Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool/PA)
He met his Canadian girlfriend, and fellow cliff-diver, Molly Carson, who is a TikTok sensation with more than 3.4 million followers.
The pair first spoke on Instagram and finally met in person while competing in Ireland, where they “fell in love really quickly”.
Ms Carson, 23, told PA: “We met a year ago and we just clicked.
“He’s one of the most humble human beings and I’m so happy we can do this journey together.
“We fell in love really quickly and our paths are synced up, so it’s really fun to travel around the world with him.”
Ms Carson, who represented Canada in Sunday’s penultimate final, based her decision to compete as a Red Bull cliff diver on the results of a social media poll where “99% of the responses were yes, other than my mother”.
The former Canadian Youth Olympian also made it to the podium in Polignano a Mare, finishing second in the women’s event.
Despite competing in one of the biggest events of their careers, the couple had another nerve-wracking event this weekend – meeting the parents.
Molly Carlson, Rhiannan Iffland and Jessica Macaulay of Canada celebrate on the podium (Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool/PA)
“Meeting the families was a pretty big deal,” Ms Carson added.
“It’s really difficult for my family to come and watch as most of the competitions are in Europe. I’m glad they’re here.”
The couple are preparing for the final event of the cliff diving season in Sydney, Australia, where they hope to make it to the podium for their respective countries.
“I love Australia and it’s the final competition of the year, so it’s a big one,” Mr Heslop said.
“There’s a bit of added pressure but we just need to crack on with it in training and get the dives sorted.”