It was a welcome sight to see two of the world's best cliff divers back where they belong in Mostar on Thursday, as Romania's Constantin Popovici and Canadian Lysanne Richard made their long awaited return to action following injury.
Popovici, in only his first season as a permanent diver, had catapulted himself into contention for the King Kahekili trophy after a stunning start to the season saw him claim second place and a victory in his first two starts. Unfortunately for him, and for all cliff diving fans, the prospect of a thrilling title fight was scuppered when the 30-year-old broke a bone in his foot after a freak slip before competition at the third stop in Polignano a Mare.
"When it happened I immediately had flashbacks to two years before, when I broke my other leg," said Popovici after his first training session in Mostar on Thursday. "I knew the recovery was going to be long and painful, but my mind was focused on what I could do to make it faster.
"I did everything possible and now I feel stronger than ever. Hopefully I can finish the season strongly and then prepare for a busy year in 2020 with both the Olympics and the World Series."
For Richard, a worrying recurrence of the neck injury that forced her to miss the entire 2017 season had threatened to derail her once again. But the courageous mother of three has worked hard to prevent that, and despite missing both the Beirut stop and the FINA High Diving World Championships, she is back and feeling confident.
"When it happened I was just thinking 'oh no, not again'", recalls the 37-year-old, who won in Mostar in 2016. "But it made me realise that I didn't rebuild something strong enough after 2017 and that I need to get back in the gym in the off-season. The plan for next year is to come back even stronger than I was before the injury in 2017."
Both divers looked in good shape during Thursday's training session at Stari Most, and who knows, maybe we could see a fairytale return to action for them in this beautiful location.
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