Eden Cheng claimed the women’s 10m platform European Championship title and secured Great Britain a quota spot in the event for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The 20-year-old, who moved out to train in the United States in 2022, has struggled with back and ankle injuries for several years and feared she may have to quit the sport after Tokyo 2020.
Despite qualifying for the final with the highest score from the preliminaries it was Italian Sarah Jodoin Di Maria and Elena Wassen of Germany who exchanged the lead in the opening rounds.
Wassen’s older sister Christina came back into contention after scoring 71.05 in the third of five rounds leaving four divers in contention for the major medals.
Jordin held a narrow advantage but an error saw her score just 52.20 and the Italian would finish with a total of 320.10 and collect bronze.
Cheng, who was fourth heading into the final round, needed to score in excess of 73 – and deliver the highest-scoring dive of the day – to secure gold, which she did.
73.60 for her back 2.5 somersaults, 1.5 twists routine saw her achieve a total of 331.60 and land Great Britain their first diving gold medal of the 2023 European Games.
Christina Wassen took silver with 330.95.
GOLD MEDALLIST EDEN CHENG (GREAT BRITAIN)
“It means everything,” she said. “I told you last year about how I have chronic ankle pain every single day & at the start of this year I didn’t even think I would be diving. To be selected for this event was an achievement, so this is just the cherry on the cake & to get the Olympic place for Great Britain is so great!”
SILVER MEDALLIST CHRISTINA WASSEN (GERMANY)
“It was amazing and I have no words. I was really surprised that I was first after my dive and really happy that I got second,” she said. “It means a lot more (than European Championship bronze in 2022), because my performance was much better than in Rome so I’m happy.”
BRONZE MEDALLIST SARAH JODOIN DI MARIA (ITALY)
“I’m happy with how I dove, I think I could have done better, but I can’t wait for Worlds to maybe push a bit more and get a better result,” she said. “I’m very proud, today is the Olympic day so it was awesome to be here at the European Games and it’s always fun to represent Italy.”
Earlier on the second day of European Games diving Italians Chiara Pellacani and Matteo Santoro claimed top spot on the podium following a dramatic mixed 3m springboard final in Rzeszów.
The pair, who finished third in the event at last year’s European Championships in Rome, achieved an impressive total of 291.39 from their five routines.
Great Britain’s experienced pair Grace Reid and James Heatly led after the three of the five rounds, but a mistake in the fourth saw them slip to fourth.
Ukraine’s Kyrylo Azarov and Anna Pysmenska, then in second, looked well-placed for a medal but a major error with their reverse 2.5 somersaults pike routine scored just 26.10 and saw them fall out of contention.
A strong finish from Great Britain as well as Swedish pair Emilia Nilsson Garip and Elias Petersen saw them claim the respective silver and bronze medals behind champions Italy.
Their fourth-round routine – forward 3.5 somersaults – was particularly impressive, scoring 67.89.
Pellacani and Santoro were clearly emotional on the podium as they received their gold medals, while for Britain’s Heatly it was a return to the European Games podium eight years after claiming gold, silver and bronze medals at the inaugural competition as a junior.
GOLD MEDALLIST CHIARA PELLECANI (ITALY)
“It was (emotional) because the last few months were really hard for me and we didn’t practice much together so it means a lot to me,” she said.
“It’s really nice and it’s also very emotional seeing the Olympic circles on the medal, so it’s really nice.”
SILVER MEDALLIST GRACE REID (GREAT BRITAIN)
“I’m really happy. We had a little bit of a mishap in round four but diving is a sport about five rounds so really pleased that we kept our heads down and got the medal.”
SILVER MEDALLIST JAMES HEATLY (GREAT BRITAIN)
“It’s nice to be back at a European Games, this is so much more than a usual Europeans and it’s really exciting. Every opportunity to dive with Grace is a great one as is another medal.”
BRONZE MEDALLISTS EMILIA NILSSON GARIP (SWEDEN)
I am so happy about it. I can’t explain, it was the first medal in mixed synchro and we were so close last year at the Europeans but we did it! It’s so fun that we’ve got a European Games medal and it’s a big competition so we’re really happy!
BRONZE MEDALLISTS ELIAS PETERSEN (SWEDEN)
“I would say it means a lot. Me and Amelia have dived together throughout all of our careers. I know how she dives and she knows how I dive so it’s easy to get along together and I’m so happy we did this today.”
WHAT’S COMING ON DAY THREE OF DIVING?
The men’s 3m springboard field attempt to secure an Olympic qualification berth for their respective nations in the event with preliminaries at 10:00 and finals at 19:00 local.
Fans visiting the venue will also be able to see the mixed 10m synchronised event at 15:00 local.
By Nick Hope
Aquatics correspondent in Poland